UPDATE: Family, Restaurant Group Issue Statements In Fatal Probe; Family Reports ‘Full Trust And Confidence’ In Authorities

BERLIN — There are still more questions than answers in the tragic hit-and-run collision on Grays Corner Road last week that claimed the life of a local 14-year-old, but it appears some of the dots are being connected.

The Maryland State Police (MSP) on Monday announced it had located the vehicle suspected to be involved in the fatal hit-and-run collision that claimed the life of Gavin Knupp, 14, of Ocean Pines, on Grays Corner Road near the Glen Riddle community on July 11. An MSP release announced law enforcement officials located the suspected vehicle, a 2011 black Mercedes, in Worcester County around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday.

On Thursday, the Knupp family through its attorney, Neil Dubovsky, who has been retained and specializes in personal injury, released a statement thanking the community for their support and expressing confidence those responsible will be brought to justice. The attorney’s statement was released through family members Ray, Tiffany and Summer Knupp.

“Our hearts are forever broken by the senseless loss of our beautiful son and brother Gavin,” the statement reads. “While we grieve his death, we have been overwhelmed by the love and support we have received from the community. That has provided strength and comfort during our darkest days.”

While it appears law enforcement and the judicial system are putting the pieces together in the case, the Knupp family’s statement released through their attorney suggests the family is being patient and letting the investigation run its course.

“We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts,” the statement reads. “We have full trust and confidence in our law enforcement authorities and the justice system to hold accountable all of those responsible.”

It’s important to note the MSP Crash Team investigation into the incident is active and ongoing and no persons of interest have been publicly identified. However, multiple reliable sources have advised the 2011 black Mercedes suspected to be involved in the collision was located in the Ocean Reef community in West Ocean City. A check of court records found one of the individuals connected to the incident through reliable sources reveals prior and recent traffic violations involving a 2011 black Mercedes and an address in the Ocean Reef community.

The investigation is active and ongoing, and no one has been formally charged. However, it appears there is some correlating information based on court records and reliable sources. The preliminary investigation revealed the victim was a pedestrian on Grays Corner Road at Riddle Lane when he was struck by a vehicle traveling east on Gray’s Corner Road. The victim was crossing the roadway to return to a passenger vehicle when he was struck by a motor vehicle, which fled the scene and did not return.

No one has been formally charged in the incident, but a social media post by a popular local hospitality group owner on Wednesday afternoon appears to provide a little insight. Matt Ortt, managing partner of Matt Ortt Companies, posted on social media on Wednesday with speculation about the incident running rampant in the close-knit local community, he felt the need to clear the air on some issues involving his establishments. Matt Ortt Companies operates the food and beverage operations in Ocean Pines, including the yacht club, as well as Coastal Salt and Coastal Smokehouse, among others.

“On behalf of Matt Ortt Companies, we are aware of a tragic event that has brought pain and heartache to multiple families and our thoughts are with all of those involved,” the statement reads. “With all of the speculation surrounding this event, I feel the need to say something publicly.”

No one had been charged in the incident as of late Wednesday and the MSP Crash Team investigation is ongoing, but Ortt’s statement confirms one of his partners is involved in the incident on some level.

“I have been in business with Ralph DeAngelus for three decades as a leader, mentor and partner,” the statement reads. “During that time, Ralph has always been a man of integrity, which is how he built such a stellar reputation in our town. Over the past few years, Matt Ortt Companies has added substantially to the area by revitalizing the Ocean Pines food and beverage operations and starting two new popular restaurants, all of which employ over 400 members of this community. At this time, my focus will continue to operate Matt Ortt Companies to the same high standards to which we have always held ourselves.”

It is uncertain if DeAngelus has even been questioned about the incident and the vehicle identified and located by law enforcement early Sunday morning, but it appears there is some connection. Ortt’s social media statement posted on Wednesday suggests DeAngelus is at least a person of interest in the probe.

“For obvious reasons, Ralph cannot speak about this matter,” the statement reads. “However, he has said to me directly ‘in the end, the truth will come out, and it will prove me to be the man you always thought I was.’ I will take him, as I always have, at his word, and I hope the community at-large will as well. Ralph has never violated the trust that I put in him, and I don’t expect that to ever change. As the managing member of Matt Ortt Companies, and on behalf of the management team, we stand fully behind Ralph’s word and will continue to wait for all of the facts to come out as the investigation proceeds.”

Meanwhile, the victim’s friends and family last week set up a Go Fund Me donation account to help with expenses. As of Monday, donations to the account had reached over $39,000 of the stated $45,000 goal. The popular young victim was an avid fisherman, hunter, skateboarder, surfer and soccer player. A portion of the funds donated through the Go Fund Me account will be donated to the Surfer’s Healing program, which would have meant so much to the victim, according to friends and family. Surfer’s Healing provides surf camps around the country and the world, including Ocean City each year, to allow surfers to interact with special needs children and enjoy a day in the ocean. A memorial paddle out is planned in Ocean City Saturday afternoon.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.