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September 22, 2022

Driver charged in South Jersey hit-and-run that injured teen, killed horse

Joseph Devitis, 51, allegedly fled the scene after colliding with the animal in Franklin Township

Investigations Hit-and-Run
NJ Horse Teen Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Joseph Devitis, 51, of Upper Pittsgrove, has been charged in connection with a hit-and-run crash in Gloucester County that injured a 14-year-old girl and killed the horse she was riding with her brother.

A Salem County man is facing criminal charges more than a week after his pick-up truck allegedly crashed into a horse ridden by a 14-year-old girl, killing the animal and injuring the teen along a roadside in Franklin Township.

Joseph Devitis, 51, was arrested Tuesday at his home in Upper Pittsgrove, where authorities had gathered information that a truck matching the one involved in the crash was parked nearby. 

The Sept. 13 collision happened shortly before 8 p.m. along the 1500 block of Monroeville Road, where the Sicklerville teenager and her 21-year-old brother were riding horses together. The truck was traveling in the same direction as the horses when it struck the hind legs of one of the animals.

Edgar Galarza, the victim's brother, described the frightening crash in an interview with NBC10. Moments before the impact, he told his sister to try to get out of the road, but it was too late. 

"When the car hit her, he broke the horse's back two legs," Galarza said, indicating an area along the side of the road where his sister and the horse fell. "She said she couldn't breathe, and that's when I started panicking."

The teenager was taken to Cooper University Hospital in Camden and treated for injuries to her hips and legs. The 15-year-old horse, named Predator, suffered fatal injuries and was returned to its owner. Galarza and his horse were not harmed. 

Galarza told CBS News that he and his sister have been horseback riding together for years and considered Predator part of their family. 

"In your mind, you took her horse bro, that's family, and not only that you put us all in danger," Galarza said last week, imploring the driver to come forward. "That's really all, your karma will come."

When approaching or passing a horse, drivers in New Jersey are expected to reduce speeds to no more than 25 mph and proceed with caution. It's unclear how fast the truck was traveling when it struck Predator. 

Devitis' vehicle was found hidden in a wooded area near his home with heavy damage to the passenger's side, police said. Pieces of Predator's hair were collected from the vehicle as evidence.

Hit and Run Arrest An arrest has been made in the hit and run accident that seriously injured a 14 year old girl and...

Posted by Franklin Township Police Department on Thursday, September 22, 2022

Devitis is charged with leaving the scene of a crash, assault by auto, endangering an injured victim, animal cruelty and multiple traffic offenses. He was released on a summons pending a court date in Gloucester County Superior Court.

"This arrest is the result of hard work and determination by the responding officers and the detectives who followed through with this investigation," Franklin Township police said.