The Geneseo community was shocked Saturday to learn of the hit-and-run death of Kaitlin Charity, a junior from East Islip, N.Y. Charity was killed early that morning on I-390 only minutes after she had been ticketed for speeding by a state trooper.
Charity, 20, was traveling northbound between Exit 6 and 7 in Groveland when she was stopped by the trooper at approximately 6:30 a.m. Police said the trooper, whose name was not released, left the scene after ticketing Charity to chase another vehicle that was also speeding. Police said Charity then exited her vehicle to go to the side of the road and was struck as she returned to her vehicle.
A roadblock that was set up over two days by the Livingston County Sheriff's Department near the accident scene helped recover eyewitness information from motorists who regularly travel on I-390.
The Sheriff's Department believes a white Peterbilt tractor-trailer that is approximately three years old, with a double sleeper and a stainless steel back, struck and killed Charity. Police also believe that this truck may have been leaking fluid, possibly diesel fuel, and had pulled over a mile from the accident to plug the leak.
A maroon PT Cruiser that authorities believe also struck Charity has been recovered and the driver questioned.
Police are also searching for a silver or gray SUV operated by a white male in his 40s with short grayish/blonde hair who may have also struck Charity prior to the PT Cruiser. Police believe the operator of that vehicle immediately drove to a car wash in Geneseo in an attempt to remove debris from the vehicle. Photo composites of the driver are being made and will be released in the next few days.
Anyone with information about the accident is asked to call the Livingston County Sheriff's Department at 243-7100.
As the investigation continues, faculty and students grieve and console one another. Charity, an English and secondary education double major, was remembered by her professors and classmates as "strong, stable and focused," said junior Ryan Quinn, a close friend and classmate of Charity since high school.
"She had so much common sense and she never made excuses for herself," said junior Michele Guido.
Other friends of Charity described how lucky they felt to know her. "Kate never ceased to amaze me with how much she knew," said Mike Milillo, Charity's classmate. "It's sad that some people will never get to know Kaitlin."
Junior Chrissy Meyer became friends with Charity as her freshmen roommate and they became inseparable after that.
"She was a sassy Long Island girl who didn't take anything from anyone," Meyer said. "She was fierce and taught me to stand up for what I believe in." They did and shared everything together, a potential result of both of them being the only child in their families.
"The two of them were like Laverne and Shirley," said Quinn.
Charity was involved in Nassau Hall Council for several years, tutored a sixth grader at Geneseo Central School, and was a member of Elementary and Secondary Education Association.
However, Meyer explained that Charity also knew how to have fun. "We spent most of our nights being lazy college students," she said. "Everyone used to tease us freshman year because we had a TV schedule hanging up in our room that we followed religiously."
Charity's EDUC 204-SPED 205 class with Professors Sherry Schwartz and Elizabeth Hall is a small and intimate class. Schwartz explained that the death came as a tremendous shock to the class since they were going to have a party on Saturday night, planned by junior Alex Bab.
"Kate always joked about how we were like the Freedom Writers because of how close we were as a class," said junior Heather Hoestermann.
"As an educator, I know that building trust in the classroom is difficult, but it was accomplished in this class, and Kaitlin was one of the reasons that this happened," Schwartz said. "She was very outgoing, challenged her classmates, and was not afraid to speak her mind."
The class has also come together to create and fill a scrapbook with notes from Charity's friends and classmates, to be presented to Charity's parents.
Charity's smile is one that no one in the class could ever forget. "Kaitlin sat to my right and her smile always cheered me up," said Pete Beuler, a junior. "I miss her smile today."
Charity's influence and effect on her friends as well as the Geneseo community has not gone unnoticed. To date, a Facebook group dedicated to Charity has over 300 members, with pictures and memories shared by friends, old and new.
The college counseling staff has also been made available as needed to support the college community.
According to Dean of Students Leonard Sancilio, the College carillon will toll in Charity's memory on Friday, Oct. 25 at 11 a.m., and the College flag will remain at half-staff.
Waking hours will be on Thursday, Oct. 24 at Raynor D'Andrea Funeral Home in West Sayville, N.Y., from 2-4:30 p.m. and 7-9:30 p.m. Funeral services will be held at St. John Nepomucene Parish in Bohemia, N.Y., on Friday, Oct. 25 at 11 a.m.
The Student Association is also sponsoring a bus for the funeral services. Seats for the bus may be reserved in the SA Ticket Office and the bus is scheduled to leave campus at 2 a.m. Friday morning and to return at 1 p.m. Friday afternoon. Availability of seats is limited and are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Questions regarding bus travel should be directed to the SA Ticket Office at 245-5873.
A memorial service at Geneseo is also scheduled for early next week, but details for this have not yet been released. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship will also be holding a prayer vigil at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25 on the College Green in Charity's memory.
"[Charity] made me a better person and I am grateful that I got to have her in my life, even though it was only for a little while," said Meyer.