Surprise: Trucker's hitchhiker suspected in homicide case

By Kimberely Lennard, Land Line staff writer | 9/21/2012

Few truckers are glad to be stopped and ticketed by the cops, but a truck driver nailed for routine toll evasion at the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 20 might be feeling that way. His passenger – a hitchhiker – turned out to be wanted on multiple charges in Tennessee and was a suspect in a homicide.

Port of New York and New Jersey police report that Officer Steve Pisciotta stopped a Kenworth at 6:41 p.m. with no front license plate and a rear plate with an opaque covering, making it hard to read. The toll lane showed that no fee had been paid.

The driver, Manuel Velasco, of Valley Stream, NY, had an E-ZPass transponder, but the toll booth didn’t read it, according to Al Della Fave, port police spokesman. Velasco was ticketed for failure to display a front plate, obstructed rear plate, and failure to pay a toll.

Charles R. Kelly of Blaine, TN, was also in the truck. A second officer assisted in interviewing the two men. Kelly said he worked for Velasco, but Velasco told officers he picked Kelly up at a gas station on I-81 in Tennessee.

During a search of the truck, officers found a knife in the glove compartment, Della Fave told Land Line. Velasco said he didn’t know where it came from.

When one of the officers ran a computer check on Kelly, he found an arrest warrant for forgery and theft in Cook County, TN. He was also a homicide suspect in Jefferson County Tennessee.

Velasco told the officers he picked up Kelly on Sept. 16. Two men had been wanting a ride, but Velasco only had room in the truck for one. Kelly joined Velasco for dinner at his home and slept in the truck. Originally Velasco was giving Kelly a ride to Virginia, but Kelly ended up joining him on deliveries in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Long Island.

Kelly is being held at Bergen County Jail and will be transferred to Tennessee.

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