Franklin Township

Arrest Made in Hit-and-Run That Injured NJ Girl on Horseback

Police said they found the damaged vehicle, horse hair still all over the front end, on the suspect's property

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Police have arrested a man suspected of being behind the wheel of the pickup truck involved in a hit-and-run crash that left a girl on horseback with broken bones and caused the injured animal to be euthanized.

Joseph Devitis, 51, is charged with assault by auto, leaving the scene of a crash involving serious bodily injury, endangering an injured victim and animal cruelty, Franklin Township Police Department Deputy Chief Matt DeCesari told NBC10 Thursday morning.

Devitis was arrested at his Monroeville home, which is les than a mile and a half from the Sept. 13 crash that left 14-year-old Tatiana Galarza with fractures in her hip and leg, DeCesari said. The crash also broke the horse’s legs, causing it to be euthanized.

Police officers obtained leads Tuesday night about the pickup truck involved in the collision. After obtaining search warrants, officers found the damaged vehicle hidden in the woods of Devitis’ property, the horse’s hair still all over the front end, DeCesari said.

The chief said Devitis cooperated and seemed remorseful for his actions, adding that the suspect may have initially fled because he was coming back from an establishment where he may have been consuming alcohol.

After the arrest, Devitis was released on condition that he show up to a later court date.

Officials said Tatiana was lucky to be alive after the crash. Edgar Galarza, the girl’s brother, told NBC10 that they were riding their horses on the grass next to rural Monroeville Road when they stopped to take a break and the pickup barreled into his sister and her beloved 15-year-old horse.

"The driver was driving an insanely high speed to hit and kill a horse and still be able to drive down the road," witness Michael Pfommer said. "Think about how fast that truck has to be going."

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