Hunt on for car thief who killed ‘Nova student

(Bob McGovern)
Posted: September 29, 2010

The stolen SUV was traveling so fast - more than 100 m.p.h. - that when it rear-ended a Volkswagen Jetta, it knocked out the Jetta's engine and flipped the car end-over-end, sending it crashing into a wall, police said.

The wreck on Haverford Road in Bryn Mawr just after midnight killed Daniel Giletta, 22, a senior from Wyckoff, N.J.

The other occupant of the Jetta, tentatively identified as Frank "Patrick" DiChiara, 22, of Toms River, N.J., his roommate, was in critical but stable condition at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

It took more than an hour to extricate the victims.

The driver of the stolen Range Rover, which evidently struck the Jetta at an angle, minimizing the impact on the driver's side of the SUV, escaped and was the subject of region-wide manhunt.

"I am devastated," said Eric Magleby, 20, a Villanova senior a member of the same fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, as the victims. "They are two of my best friends."

Magleby said he was with the two Tuesday night watching TV at an Ardmore house occupied by four fraternity brothers. He said the two left around midnight.

What followed was a sequence of events that police still are trying to unravel.

A Haverford police officer spotted the stolen vehicle, but before he had a chance to pursue, the car thief sped away, Police Chief Carmen Pettine.

Racing north at more than 100 m.p.h., the Range Rover slammed into the back of the Jetta carrying the students, Pettine said.

The Jetta overturned, trapping the two students inside its mangled wreckage.

"It was a very violent crash," Pettine said. "The impact was so bad that the engine was out of the car, and we're talking about rear-end collision."

A large blood stain and several skid marks were visible at the crash site, near the intersection with Rugby Road.

Giletta was dead at the scene from massive head injuries, and DiChiara was transported by medical helicopter to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was in critical but stable condition, the chief said.

Contrary to initial reports, no police chase was involved, Pettine said. The Range Rover, which matched the description of one stolen in Radnor, sped off and crashed before the officer was able to respond.

Police said that it traveled the 2 miles from where it was spotted, near Eagle Road, to the accident scene in about 90 seconds.

"He was in the process of initiating that pursuit," and didn't even witness the accident, Pettine said.

After the collision, the SUV went an additional 400 or 500 yards until the vehicle became inoperable and the driver got out. "He bailed out and fled the scene on foot," Pettine said.

"All of us here at Villanova are saddened to learn of this tragedy and extend our deepest sympathy and prayers to family and friends of both students," said Father John Stack, Villanova's vice president for student life, in a statement. " . . . We ask that you keep these students and their families in your prayers."

The fraternity brothers plan to gather at St. Thomas of Villanova Church on the Villanova campus for a 6 p.m. memorial service.


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

Staff writers Bonnie L. Cook and Katie Eder contributed to this article.

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