Mount Carmel police chief to update public on Stellfox investigation
MOUNT CARMEL - It will be 10 years next Saturday since Miss Jean Louise Stellfox was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver at Third and Maple streets.
A popular and well-respected teacher retired from Shamokin Area School District, Stellfox's death gained much attention and speculation, especially since the culprit has never been brought to justice.
On Friday, the eve of the 10-year anniversary of her death, Mount Carmel Borough Police Department will host a press conference. As much as he'd like to, Police Chief Todd Owens said there won't be an announcement of an arrest. There will, however, be a public update on the police investigation.
Owens hopes that renewed emphasis on the case inside the department coupled with publicity about the investigation will stir memories and perhaps the conscience of someone who may have information that hasn't yet been shared with police.
"We have some updates and things like that which we think is important to let everyone know Miss Stellfox has not been forgotten," Owens said.
Owens agreed that many in the public believe just that: the case had gone cold and the unsolved death had long ago became an afterthought.
New effort went into the investigation last year. Officers revisited the case and treated it as if it had just occurred. Assistance was sought from the state police major case squad. They all started from the ground up reviewing reports and video surveillance footage. Some witnesses were interviewed again. Others were interviewed for the first time.
Stellfox's obituary sits on the desk of Cpl. Dave Donkochik to serve as a daily reminder.
"The tragic event was not just put into a case file and forgotten. ... It will never ever be a closed case for us until we can't go any further," said Owens, who was promoted to police chief last year.
Stellfox, 64, formerly of 44 E. Avenue, Mount Carmel, was struck by a dark-colored, perhaps green, sport utility vehicle at Third and Maple streets near Wachovia Bank about 6 p.m. Oct. 26, 2003. She was airlifted to Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, and died early Oct. 27. Police said she suffered a fractured skull. She is buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery, Mount Carmel Township.
Police had said many witnesses were interviewed immediately after, including several drivers in the area. In the months following the accident, it had been reported that many vehicles were inspected in both Northumberland and Schuylkill counties. One SUV was impounded but was found not to be the suspect vehicle. First believed to be a Ford Explorer, police later said the vehicle was suspected to be a new model Dodge Durango.
Memory lives on
While leads in the investigation faded over time, the memory of Miss Stellfox hadn't. She had amassed a healthy life's savings and left behind $1.5 million to her beloved Dickinson College, a fact made public years after her death. An award there was established in her parents' names. Another scholarship fund was established last year in Stellfox's name at Shamokin Area School District.
The press conference will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the borough council chambers at 137 W. Fourth St.
Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini will also be on hand.