By Hunter Hine, Staff Writer
Circuit court motions filed but judge has yet to decide on request from accused
(July 6, 2023) July 11 will mark one year since the hit-and-run incident that resulted in the death of 14-year-old Ocean Pines resident Gavin Knupp.
In the months since, the Knupp family has formed a charity in his honor, the community and many local businesses have posted signs calling for justice and the Worcester County courts have scheduled a trial date for suspected driver Tyler Mailloux, a 22-year-old Berlin resident.
Now, citing all the publicity and social media commentary about the case, attorneys for Mailloux are asking the court for a change of venue.
The motion asking for the change was filed by Mailloux’s attorneys on June 16. The defense claims in the motion that the widespread publicity given to the incident locally has created prejudice against Mailloux across Worcester County.
Mailloux’s attorneys argue that because of the news coverage, road signs, public demonstrations, harassment of Mailloux and his family, and social media presence like that of the Do It For Gavin Facebook group, the defendant would not be able to receive a fair and impartial trial inside the county even with the vetting of jury members.
In response to the motion, the office of State’s Attorney Kristin Heiser argued that the defense’s argument fails to show that news coverage has been consistently negative toward the defendant and that many of the stories do not name Mailloux.
The prosecutors also note that the social media activity involving posts related to the trial or to Mailloux cannot be directly attributed to Worcester County residents and that the defense hasn’t shown how the coverage would prejudice Mailloux, nor why jury selection couldn’t address the issue.
“Extensive knowledge in the community of either the crime or the criminal is not sufficient, by itself, to render a trial constitutionally unfair,” prosecutors wrote in the response.
The judge has not yet made a decision on the motion.
Tiffany Knupp, Gavin’s mother, made a post on the Do It For Gavin – Justice for Gavin Facebook group on Saturday, asking all media to direct questions to the family’s attorney Neil Dubovsky, saying that the next few weeks will be very emotional for the Knupp family and their friends.
“As we approach the one-year anniversary of Gavin’s passing, the Knupp family remains as committed as ever to honoring Gavin’s legacy and making sure that justice is served,” Dubovsky said in a statement. “We have complete trust and confidence in the State’s Attorney’s office to that end.”
The Do It For Gavin Facebook group has more than 23,000 members who post in remembrance of Gavin, in support of the family, and to spread hopes for justice.
On Sunday, group member Terry Beach, Gavin Knupp’s grandfather, posted in the Facebook group, sharing pictures of Gavin crabbing with him on July Fourth weekend of last year. Beach wrote that he and his two sons, Ray Knupp, Gavin’s father, and Roger Knupp, Gavin’s uncle, went crabbing again on Saturday for the first time since that weekend last year.
Heiser filed 17 charges against Mailloux on April 28, about nine-and-a-half months after Gavin’s death. Of the 17 charges, four are felonies, two of which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. All the charges are related to Mailloux’s alleged failures to stop at the scene or later report it.
On May 17, the court scheduled Mailloux’s trial for Sept. 11-14 at the Worcester County Circuit Court in Snow Hill.
A Bayside Gazette article from May 25 stated that the trial days would be split between Judge Brett W. Wilson and Judge Brian Shockley, which is how the scheduling on Maryland Case Search was originally listed.
Mailloux’s case page was later changed so that Wilson will oversee all four days of the trial and the motion hearing on Aug. 18.
Attorney George Psoras Jr., of Rice Murtha & Psoras LLC, in Lutherville will represent Mailloux, while the prosecution will include Heiser and Paul Haskell, also from the State’s Attorney’s office.
Mailloux’s initial appearance in court, which had been scheduled for May 31, was canceled, because the reasons for the appearance were to advise Mailloux of his charges and alert him to the right to have an attorney.
If a defendant already has an attorney, the meeting is not necessary, Heiser said.
Almost one year ago, Gavin’s sister, Summer Knupp, who is now 17, picked Gavin up from a friend’s house around 10:45 p.m. on July 11, 2022. While driving west on Gray’s Corner Road on the way back to their mother’s house, the two stopped. Gavin allegedly left the car to take a picture of a taxidermy deer mount on the side of the road. While crossing back across the street, a vehicle heading east struck him.
Summer Knupp reportedly tried to perform CPR on her brother before first responders took him to Atlantic General Hospital.
Gavin was pronounced dead at AGH.
On July 17, 2022 police discovered a black Mercedes that had damage consistent with the hit in the garage of Ralph DeAngelus, a local businessman. Maryland State Police took the vehicle for processing.
Mailloux is the son of DeAngelus’s girlfriend, Kearston Frey.
Second Gavin Knupp Paddle Out set July 11
The second Gavin Knupp Memorial Paddle Out will take place at 4 p.m., July, 11, on the beach at 36th Street.
Tiffany Knupp, Gavin’s mother, posted the event on the Do It For Gavin Facebook group early this week. People are welcome to join as community members swim into the ocean on surfboards in remembrance of Gavin at 5 p.m., Tiffany Knupp wrote. The paddle out takes place on the one-year anniversary of the hit-and-run accident that resulted in Gavin’s death.
Gavin was an avid angler, hunter, skater and surfer.
The family held the first paddle out for Gavin on July 23, 2022, which was organized by the Ocean City Surf Club. About 250 surfers and roughly 400 others attended.
As of Wednesday, 31 people had marked “going” on the Facebook event listing, and 88 people marked “interested.”