PLYMOUTH TWP. — State police on Tuesday filed drunk-driving and child endangerment charges against a local dentist who championed for harsher penalties for fatal hit-and-run drivers after his 5-year-old son was killed in 2012 by an alleged drunk driver.
State police last month said they stopped Dr. Stephen F. Miller, of Dallas Township, on June 12 at about 9:10 p.m. in Plymouth Township after they observed him driving in the dark with his headlights off. He was taken into custody for suspicion of DUI and state police said charges would be filed pending a blood-alcohol test.
Trooper Tom Kelly told the Times Leader on Tuesday that Miller was with his wife and two minor children at the time of the traffic stop.
Miller, 40, faces two counts of driving while under the influence and two counts of child endangerment, according to court records. Miller, whose dental practice is located in Wilkes-Barre, also faces summary traffic offenses.
According to court records, a summons was issued Tuesday ordering him to appear for a preliminary hearing Aug. 17.
Miller could not be reached for comment Tuesday at his dental offices or at his home.
Miller and his wife, Caroline, pushed for an increase in the minimum prison sentence for hit-and-run fatalities after they learned that Thomas Letteer Jr. could serve as little as a year in jail for fleeing the scene after he had been allegedly drinking and his vehicle struck and killed the Millers’ 5-year-old son, Kevin, while the family was crossing North Street in Wilkes-Barre on Dec. 21, 2012.
Police launched a massive search for a red Pontiac sedan that was recorded on private and city surveillance cameras near the scene before they discovered a vehicle matching the description on Mack Street near Letteer’s home in Plains Township. Letteer initially denied being in Wilkes-Barre the night Kevin was killed when interviewed by investigators, but cellphone records and other evidence proved otherwise.
Letteer eventually entered into a plea agreement, and Luzerne County Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. handed down a two-to-five-year prison sentence in May 2014.
Despite testimony that Letteer had attended a party at a West Wyoming home and consumed alcohol on the night of Kevin’s death, he could not be charged with homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, which carries a minimum three-year sentence, because he had fled the scene and his blood-alcohol level was unable to be ascertained.
Following Letteer’s sentencing, the Miller family joined prosecutors and lawmakers — including state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, and state Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca — at a press conference calling on state legislators to change the law.
An amendment to a Transportation Bill, which became known as Kevin’s Law, was passed in 2014 that included increasing the minimum penalty for leaving the scene of an accident involving death to three years.
The law was used in May when Harveys Lake resident Michael Scavone, 51, was convicted in the death of 31-year-old Paula Jones, of Factoryville.
Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL.