Man Arraigned for Slamming Car into Palmer House
Numerous charges filed after Aug. 4 incident in Palmer Township.
Westley Smith denied to police he was involved in an accident and fled the scene during the overnight hours of Aug. 4. A car had slammed into a Palmer Township house and caused the front porch to collapse.
Later that morning, however, Smith’s uncle heard a different version of what happened at 961 Tatamy Road, court records say.
The uncle was at the Wilson home of Smith’s mother. He heard the mother say her son called her at 4am to say he wrecked her car trying to avoid hitting a deer and hit a fence.
The next day, the uncle – who had talked to police in the hours after the crash – talked to police again. This time he went to the Palmer police station and told them what he heard at the Smith house.
Now, more than three months after the crash, Westley Smith, 23, an employee of an area Taco Bell, has been charged in the case. He was arraigned Tuesday by District Judge Jackie Taschner of Palmer Township and committed to Northampton County Prison in lieu of $5,000 bail.
In addition to accident-related crimes, he’s charged with possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia. Police say that inside the car they found a metal grinder “commonly known” to grind marijuana. They also found rolling papers and the last bit of a marijuana cigarette – a “roach.”
The records do not say why more than three months went by before Smith was charged. But a detailed criminal complaint filed Aug. 6 by Palmer Patrolman Kenneth McPherson shows how interviews with Smith, his mother, uncle and younger brother led police to conclude that Smith was in the accident.
Key evidence turned out to be a red Chicago Bulls hat found a few feet outside the driver’s side of the crashed car, as well as who said they were wearing the hat and when.
Other highlights from the complaint include:
-- The car, a tan four-door 2003 Nissan Altima, had extensive damage to the driver’s side when police saw it around 4:40am Aug. 4, a Saturday. Skid marks indicated the southbound car lost control on a curve and slid sideways through the yard and into the house.
--Police found a pay stub and credit card inside the car with Westley Smith’s name on them. The pay stub address was the 1600 block of Northampton Street. Police learned the car was registered to a woman – later identified as Smith’s mother – at that address.
--Later on Aug. 4, the mother told police her car was parked in front of her house when she went to bed between 10 and 10:30pm. Her youngest son, a juvenile whom she said was at home all night, at one point retrieved a portfolio from the car. She said her son Westley only uses the car when he works a night shift at Taco Bell.
--Westley Smith came to the Palmer police station at 8:25am. He said he was not driving the car overnight and was not involved in an accident. He had a bruise on his forehead, which he said he got playing basketball with his younger brother the previous night at Meuser Park in Wilson.
--After basketball, Smith said, he ran into his uncle and eventually walked to his uncle’s house and fell asleep. He said his uncle woke him in the morning, told him to call his mother and said something about voicemail from Palmer police.
--Palmer police Sgt. Timothy Ruoff showed Smith the red Bulls hat found outside the car. Smith said the hat is his and was in his mother’s car. He said Taco Bell work shirts also were in the car. Police found them there.
--The uncle told Ruoff his nephew came to his house around 12:30am. The uncle said he – the uncle – went to sleep upstairs before 1am. He said Smith was sleeping on the couch when Smith’s mother called around 6am.
--The younger brother, who also talked to police later on Aug. 4, said he took the red hat from his brother’s room and was wearing it when he and his mother went to Allentown around 3 to 4pm the day before. He said he put the hat back in his brother’s room after getting home.
--With police still there, the brother went upstairs to get the hat but could not find it. Ruoff showed him the hat found at the crash scene. The brother said that was the hat he wore and put back in Westley’s room.
--The brother, in an answer contradicting Westley, said he did not play basketball at all the previous night.
--The uncle, in recounting his visit to the Smith home the previous morning, said Westley talked about buying a new red hat and to say the new hat was the one his brother talked about. The uncle also said he was told “to keep the stories straight” and to say Westley was at the uncle’s house all night.
In addition to the drug paraphernalia count, Smith was charged with accidents involving damage to attended vehicle or property, driving while operating privilege is suspected or revoked, and summary violations of reckless driving, careless driving, driving vehicle at safe speed, driving on right side of roadway and duty to give information and render aid.