Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Charges in Knupp hit-and-run going back to Worcester Circuit Court

The case against 23-year-old Berlin resident Tyler Mailloux, accused in the 2022 hit-and-run death of Gavin Knupp, will continue in Worcester County Circuit Court following an appellate court opinion released March 27.

Knupp protestors

A group of protestors, including Gavin Knupp’s father, Ray Knupp, hold signs outside of Coastal Smokehouse, which is no longer in business, on Route 50 after 14-year-old Gavin was hit and killed on Gray’s Corner Road in July 2022.
File photo courtesy Campos Media

Ruling released in favor of prosecution

By Bethany Hooper, Associate Editor

The case against a local man accused in the 2022 hit-and-run death of Gavin Knupp will continue in Worcester County Circuit Court following an appellate court opinion released March 27.

The Appellate Court of Maryland reversed a circuit court ruling that dismissed nearly 20 traffic charges against Tyler Mailloux, 23, of Berlin, in the death of 14-year-old Knupp, of Ocean Pines. The opinion, issued by Judge Rosalyn Tang, argues the lower court had concurrent jurisdiction and erred in its ruling.

“When the State filed the information in the circuit court to include offenses charged in Counts 9 through 17, which undisputedly arose out of the same circumstances as offenses charged in Counts 1 through 8, the District Court was divested of exclusive original jurisdiction in the criminal case, and the circuit court had exclusive original jurisdiction over all the offenses …,” the opinion reads. “We, therefore, hold that the circuit court erred in dismissing the information filed in the circuit court on the ground that exclusive original jurisdiction lay in the District Court.”

Last April, 17 traffic charges – including failure to immediately stop at the scene of an accident involving bodily injury and failure to immediately stop a vehicle at the scene of an accident involving death – were filed against Mailloux stemming from the death of Knupp, who was struck and killed by a motorist in a black Mercedes while crossing Grays Corner Road around 10:30 p.m., on July 11, 2022. Knupp was returning to a vehicle driven by his older sister and died from injuries sustained in the collision. Mailloux was charged with fleeing the scene and not returning.

During a motions hearing in Worcester County Circuit Court last August, Mailloux’s attorney argued the district court had “exclusive and original jurisdiction” and that the judge should either dismiss the case or transfer it to district court. The Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office, however, argued state statute provided exceptions allowing the case to be tried in circuit court, including that the penalty for such charges exceeded three years. Following the hearing, Judge Brett Wilson granted the defense’s motion to dismiss the case, and the matter was immediately appealed.

Last month, the Appellate Court of Maryland heard oral arguments from both the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Public Defender, Mailloux’s legal counsel. In the opinion issued Wednesday, the appellate court reversed the circuit court ruling to dismiss over lack of jurisdiction. The reported opinion is considered a binding legal precedent to be cited in future cases, according to a statement from Worcester County State’s Attorney Kris Heiser. 

“While we were always confident that our arguments were correct and firmly grounded in statute and case law, we are grateful for the reported opinion of the Appellate Court,” Heiser said in the statement. “Their decision clearly confirms that when there is concurrent jurisdiction, prosecutors retain the discretion to choose where to file charges. We intend, as we always have, to prosecute all charges against Mr. Mailloux in the Worcester County Circuit Court as soon as the case can be scheduled for trial.”

The appellate court has ordered that the Worcester County Circuit Court reversed the judgment and the cost of the appeal be paid for by Mailloux. A statement from the Knupp family through their attorney Neil Dubovsky applauded the ruling.

“We are immensely gratified by the unanimous reported opinion from the Appellate Court of Maryland confirming that this case can move forward in the Circuit Court for Worcester County. We remain supremely confident in Kris Heiser and her team and that support has once again been vindicated,” the statement reads. “While this process has been frustrating at times, we remain resolute in our commitment to holding those responsible for Gavin’s death accountable. In the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Today’s ruling helps bring us closer to justice and for that, we are appreciative.”

During oral argument last month, Mailloux’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Celia Davis, asked the appellate court to uphold the circuit court’s decision in the matter. She argued that charges should have first been filed in district court.

“The plain language of Section 4-301 is the original enabling statute for the district court of Maryland, and it sets forth exactly what cases should originate in that court,” she said at the time. “And it sets forth in part A a general category of traffic and boating offenses, and in part B it enumerates 25 offenses, including the offenses charged in this case.”

Davis acknowledged that while there were exceptions where the case could be tried in circuit court, the district court had “starting point jurisdiction.” She said that took precedence over the provision that allowed for concurrent jurisdiction.

“I would urge this court to give plain meaning to the term ‘exclusive,’ meaning limited or dedicated, and ‘original,’ meaning that’s the court that has the power to decide the case first. That’s what those words mean …,” she said. “The term exclusive original jurisdiction does not define where the case must be tried, it defines where the case starts … In fact, the state has not brought us any examples of cases with these particular charges that started in the circuit court. They always start in the district court.”

This story appears in the April 4, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.