BERLIN – The investigation into the fatal hit-and-run collision that took the life of a rising ninth grader continued this week as the family and community prepare to celebrate the teen’s life Saturday.
As of Friday, July 22, here’s a compilation of what is known as more details have been confirmed.
- The Incident: A black Mercedes was driving eastbound on July 11 around 10:45 p.m. on Grays Corner Road, a short cut used by locals to avoid the Routes 589 and 50 traffic light that runs parallel to Route 50 between Glen Riddle Lane and Route 589. The vehicle struck and killed Gavin Knupp, 14, of Ocean Pines. Knupp was reportedly a pedestrian on the road and was returning to a nearby vehicle when the collision took place. Knupp was pronounced dead at Atlantic General Hospital shortly after the collision.
The vehicle fled the scene and did not return. Police reportedly canvassed the area with residents in Glen Riddle reporting police asked permission to search garages and properties for the vehicle. On Sunday, July 17, six days after the incident, at 1;30 a.m., the Mercedes identified as the vehicle in the collision was seized from a home in the Ocean Reef community. The vehicle, which reportedly matched the suspected damages sustained in the collision, was towed to the Maryland State Police Berlin Barrack for further processing.
The press release stated, “Maryland State Police continue the search for the individual operating the Mercedes at the time of the incident. Anyone who witnessed this crash, or who may have information about the operator of the suspected vehicle, is urged to contact Maryland State Police Corporal Kevin Moore of the Maryland State Police Crash Team at 410-819-4721. The investigation continues…”
- The Investigation: Though unconfirmed through official channels, details are beginning to come into focus on the incident and subsequent investigation. Police have identified a 21-year-old local man as a suspect of interest in the collision and authorities are probing whether he was the driver of the black 2011 Mercedes on July 11. A vehicle by the same make and model was reported by reliable sources as leaving the Ocean Pines Yacht Club that evening prior to the time of the fatal collision. Conflicting reports have been provided to the newspaper on the suspect’s whereabouts, but as of Monday police did not know his whereabouts according to the MSP press release. Until police officially release more information and the filing of charges, which are said to be pending, The Dispatch will not identify the suspected motorist.
State’s Attorney Kris Heiser said Tuesday her office could not comment on the situation, reporting the MSP Investigation Crash Team is handling the probe at this point. Once charges are filed, Heiser’s prosecution team then moves ahead with a case, which may or may not be presented to a grand jury for an indictment. Similar, but not identical, collisions in the past have resulted in negligent manslaughter by a motor vehicle charge, most notably a situation in 2019 in Ocean City when a motorist killed a 51-year-old motorist on Coastal Highway and fled the scene of the collision before crashing his vehicle. The motorist was sentenced to 15 years in jail for the negligent manslaughter by motor vehicle charge and an additional two years for operating a vehicle without an ignition interlock device, as required by a previous drunk driving conviction. It should be noted the driver responsible for this fatality was proven to be driving drunk and had a history of drunk driving arrests.
Court records confirm the black Mercedes seized last weekend belongs to the 21-year-old person of interest and was driven by the man in a traffic violation in March of this year and a speeding violation in November of 2020. At least three individuals have been connected to the incident – the motorist, his mother and his mother’s boyfriend. It’s unclear if police have interviewed any or all of the individuals as of Friday.
- Statements Issued: Amid innuendo and speculation about one or more employees’ connection to the hit-and-run fatality, Matt Ortt Companies, which operates the Ocean Pines food operations, including the yacht club, as well as several other local restaurants, issued a statement on social media confirming a partner in the business had some level of involvement in the situation. The statement, which was ultimately removed from social media after a scathing response from community members, defended partner Ralph DeAngelus, whose girlfriend is the mother of the person of interest.
“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. With all of the speculation surrounding this event, I feel the need to say something publicly. I have been in business with Ralph DeAngelus for three decades as a leader, mentor, and partner. During that time, Ralph has always been a man of integrity, which is how he has built such a stellar reputation in our town,” a statement from Managing Member Matt Ortt read. “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 be to continue to operate Matt Ortt Companies to the same high standards to which we have always held ourselves.”
The statement continued, “For obvious reasons, Ralph cannot speak about this matter. 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 the Matt Ortt Companies, and on behalf of the management team, we stand fully behind Ralph’s word and will continue to wait for all the facts to come out as the investigation proceeds.”
On Thursday, the Knupp family through its attorney, Neil Dubovsky of the Dubo Law, LLC of Lutherville-Timonium, who specializes in personal injury, maintained the high road, releasing 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 Knupp’s parents, Ray and Tiffany, and his sister, 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. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. We have full trust and confidence in our law enforcement authorities and the justice system to hold accountable all of those responsible.”
- Full Obituary: Gavin Ross Knupp, 14, of Ocean Pines, passed away following a tragic accident on Monday, July 11, 2022. Born on June 13, 2008 in Salisbury, he was the son of Raymond Knupp of Salisbury and Tiffany Knupp (Frye) of Ocean Pines.
Gavin was an outdoor enthusiast. He loved hunting, fishing, surfing and skateboarding. Above everything else he loved his sister, Summer. They were two peas in a pod, always inseparable and he looked at her as his hero. He will be remembered for his great sense of humor, his ability to light up a room and his exceptional character. He made friends everywhere he went and will be missed by everyone who knew him. Everyone who had the honor of knowing Gavin is better for doing so.
He was preceded in death by his grandfather, Jeff Beach.
Gavin is survived by his parents; his sister, Summer Knupp; grandparents, Roger and Marlene Frye of Salisbury, Allen Knupp of Berryville, Va. and Terry Beach of Crisfield; an aunt, Crystal Stavley and her husband Mark of Eden; two uncles, Roger and Randy Knupp both of Salisbury; cousins, Cade and Savannah Stavley; his best friend, Kameron Blagus; as well as many other friends.
A celebration of Gavin’s life will be held at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, 2022 on the beach at 36th Street, Ooeanside, in Ocean City.
Memorial donations may be made to the GoFundMe page established in Gavin’s name found here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/gavin-knupp?qid=0ca87fae7794242370d068fda0a87662
Arrangements are in the care of Holloway Funeral Home, P.A., 501 Snow Hill Road, Salisbury, Md. 21804. To send condolences to the family, please visit www.hollowayfh.com.
- Community Rallies: A Go Fund Me page was immediately launched to help the family with expenses associated with Knupp’s sudden passing. To date, it has raised nearly $43,000.
The page’s initial post from family friends Caroline Barber and Erin Tapley reads, “Last night (7/11/22) our earth stopped and our hearts shattered. Tiffany, Ray and Summer Knupp will never be the same. They lost their son, and brother.
“Gavin Knupp, a sweet, funny, bright 14-year-old boy, was taken in a senseless hit and run. This was never supposed to happen.
“Gavin had a love and passion for so much. Fishing, hunting, skateboarding, surfing and of course soccer. Gavin was truly loved by EVERYONE that met him. He will be forever in our hearts.
“Please help the Knupp’s in any way you can during this difficult time. They were not prepared to say goodbye to their sweet boy.
“And please pray for Summer, Tiffany, Ray and all Gavin’s family and friends as we try to heal from this tragedy.
An update reads, “We just want to thank everyone so much for all the support and generous donations we have received in the last 24 hours. We will be able to honor Gavin in a way that shows how much he was loved and cherished by so many! Any additional funds will allow the family to get the support they need with such an untimely passing as well as time to celebrate his life as a family. They also hope to honor Gavin’s short but impactful life by donating a portion of the donations to Surfer’s Healing which would have meant so much to him! As we start to move forward and seek the counseling the family needs, please feel free to contribute or add special memories you have of how your life was impacted by this special soul!”
In another update, Tapley detailed the Saturday service, writing, “We are having a Celebration of Life this Saturday (7/23) on 36th Street at 5pm, Oceanside. We will be doing a paddle out, so bring your boards or if you don’t have one, some will be supplied. We will have food, drinks, music and more… just Bring a chair. Parking will be available at the Convention Center on 39th. Gavin would love nothing more than a big party, so please join us as we celebrate his beautiful life!”