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Robert Janaitis, 32, Philadelphia, PA, 01.27.05


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Tow Truck Operator Killed

Port Richmond, Friday Jan. 28, 2005- Philadelphia police are looking for a driver, who struck and killed a tow truck operator, and then left the scene.

The Action Cam was along I-95 North, near Allegheny Avenue in Port Richmond late Thursday evening.

Police say the tow truck operator was talking to a motorist with a disabled vehicle. A dark-colored Mercedes convertible slammed into the operator and kept going. The man died at the scene. Police say the Mercedes may have windshield and side-view mirror damage.

The accident shut down a stretch of I-95 North for about two-and-a-half hours... it has since re-opened.


Fatal I-95 Hit-And-Run Investigated

Driver Believed To Be 40-Year-Old White Male With Gray Hair

PHILADELPHIA (KYW) Police are investigating a fatal hit-and-run in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood.

CBS 3's Ji Young Min reports the incident occurred in the northbound lanes of Interstate 95, just north of Girard Avenue late Thursday.

Authorities say a black, two-door Mercedes Benz SL hit and killed 32-year-old Robert Janaitis of the 200 block of South 11th Street, a tow truck driver who was assisting a disabled motorist.

Captain Bruce Capriotti of the Philadelphia Police Department says the accident division has since recovered parts of the car as evidence scene: "Right now we have some damaged parts and were going to dealerships and of course right away we're going to go to a Mercedes dealership and if nothing else to track down the year of the car from the lenses, from the mirror, and from the parts of the car that we have recovered from the scene."

Min has learned that according to witnesses, the Mercedes is believed to be between 1998 and 2000 and may have had either Delaware or Pennsylvania plates along with a blue and white sticker on the back bumper. The right side mirror is reportedly missing on the car.

The search for the driver, who is believed to be a white male with gray hair in his 40's, continues.



I'm the wife/widow of ROBERT JANAITIS. I'm new at this site so I hope I'm doing this right. I just want to thank every and any tow truck driver for all the support through this tragedy. I will miss him forever!!! And many others will miss him too!

May he sleep in peace and bring us the heartless piece of sh*t with the Mercedes!!





Tow-truck operator killed in I-95 incident



The car that struck and killed an independent tow truck operator on Interstate 95 Thursday night was driving a late-model sports car, according to police.

Captain Bruce Capriotti of the Accident Investigation Division also said "there's a possibility" that the car had Delaware tags.

The hit-and-run accident killed 36-year-old Robert Janaitis, who lived on south 11th Street in Philadelphia.

Janaitis, cops said, pulled in front of a disabled Plymouth Voyager minivan just before the Girard Avenue on-ramp. When Janaitis got out to help the stranded driver of the minivan, the driver of the Mercedes-Benz plowed into him, sending his body into the lanes of the expressway.

The driver of the Mercedes fled the scene.

Cops said the driver may have been on a cell phone; numerous witnesses confirm that the Benz was moving erratically before the accident.

The police are looking for a two-door Mercedes-Benz sports coupe, possibly the SL-500 model.

Tow Zone


Just a little update... the owner of the 2000 mercedes made his car available to police...the man was not arrested....his lawyer has been in contact with police....police say it is not known if he was driving the car or not??...as for me i dont know many people who lend out there mercedes.... and if it were stolen i think i would know and report it...so how many people could have been driving it???.....only one and that is the owner...i think he is guilty and should be a man and admit it....his car sat in his driveway or garage for 3 days with a broken mirror, whole in half of the winsheild and body and front end damage..not to mention he had to see my husband come through his winsheild and never even thought to stop..imagine that..must be nice to have money and power and get away with murder...



Posted on Mon, Feb. 28, 2005

A death, a widow and a coward

By John Grogan

Inquirer Columnist

In the big city, his was a small death, barely noticed.

Robert Janaitis was not famous or wealthy or connected. He was just a dirt-under-the-nails working guy from South Philadelphia, a high school dropout who made his living driving a tow truck up and down I-95, rescuing stranded motorists.

That's what he was doing on the night of Jan. 27 when he saw a disabled minivan squeezed onto the narrow shoulder near the Girard Avenue on-ramp. Janaitis, 31, flicked on his flashing lights, pulled in front of the van, and stepped out.

A black Mercedes-Benz clipped him as he leaned down to examine the van, throwing him onto the hood and then into the path of a taxi.

The cabbie stopped; the Mercedes' driver did not, despite an impact powerful enough to rip off the luxury car's grill and outside mirror and cave in its windshield.

The Inquirer dedicated 161 words to Janaitis' death. The Daily News gave it 169 words. Life in the big city churned on.

But it has stopped cold for Janaitis' widow, Jaime, 27, devastated by the loss of her husband of six years.

"He was my world," she told me last week. "And now I feel like my whole world has just shut down."

The loss of her husband is hard enough. Knowing that the man who hit him is still out there, walking free, makes it harder still.

Evasive behavior

"He just left my husband there to die. I just can't understand it," she said. "He can't even be man enough to admit what he did to my husband."

Indeed, the driver's behavior gives weasels everywhere a bad name. Three days after fleeing the scene, the driver's lawyer turned the Mercedes over to police, newly cleaned, which removed potential evidence, said Capt. Bruce Capriotti of the Accident Investigation Division.

The driver, with his attorney, then gave police what Capriotti called "a very, very, very limited" statement. In other words, he lawyered up.

Yes, he owns the damaged 2000 Mercedes SL convertible. Yes, it does seem to be sparkling clean. No, it wasn't stolen. And beyond that, well, he'd rather not discuss it.

"We know who did it," Capriotti told me last week. "There's no doubt. We know who did it." The trick, he said, is gathering enough evidence from witness accounts and the sanitized vehicle to make a case that will stick.

He turned his investigative findings over to the District Attorney's Office on Thursday. Capriotti declined to name the suspect, who, he said, lives in Philadelphia.

The irony of the hit-and-run, the captain said, is that the crash itself appears to be an accident, plain and simple. Because of the narrow shoulder, the tow truck and the minivan were protruding into traffic, and Janaitis appears to have been standing in the traffic lane when hit.

A cowardly crime

"We know this guy did not go down there to intentionally kill someone, but we also know he intentionally ran away," Capriotti said of the driver.

And that is a crime.

Jaime Janaitis feels the slow burn of justice delayed - and worries it could become justice denied.

"I'm just hoping he's not someone with power who feels he can buy his way out of this," she said.

The widow is not alone in her grief and outrage. Tow drivers around the region are watching the case, awaiting justice for a fallen comrade.

Said Janaitis' boss, Mike Otterson, owner of South Philly Towing: "I'm very, very upset. I just can't fathom how that person could leave the scene... and then stay away for this long. It just boggles the mind."

After Janaitis' Funeral Mass at St. Rita's Catholic Church on South Broad Street, his fellow tow drivers lifted his casket not into a hearse, but onto the back of the flatbed tow truck he was driving the night he died.

A procession of 50 tow trucks then accompanied his body to SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Marple Township. It was the way he would have wanted it to be, his friends say.

Robert Janaitis was a little guy in the big city. Now he is dead, while the man who struck him remains free.

His young widow sits alone in an empty home, waiting.

John R.

Formula One Towing
Marquette, Michigan
auto rescue


NE Philly Man Charged in Tow Truck Driver's Death

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Mar. 3, 2005 - A Northeast Philadelphia man has been charged in a hit-and-run accident that killed a tow truck driver on Interstate 95 in January.
Sixty-seven-year-old Robert Swineheart of Northeast Philadelphia turned himself in to police and was charged with an accident January 27th that killed tow truck operator Robert Ginitis.

Police say tips from the public helped them crack the case.

Ginitis was taking care of a disabled vehicle when he was struck. The driver of the car that hit Ginitis drove off.

Swinehart is charged with homicide-by-vehicle, manslaughter, and leaving the scene of an accident.

Robert Swinehart of Philadelphia is 67 years of age.

John R.

Formula One Towing
Marquette, Michigan
auto rescue


Arrest in fatal hit-and-run

Investigators have charged a 67-year-old Northeast man in the January accident that killed a local tow-truck driver on I-95.
By Lorraine Gennaro
March 10, 2005

After a month-long investigation, police have made an arrest in the Jan. 27 hit-and-run accident that took the life of a 31-year-old local tow-truck driver.
Bobby Janaitis, of the 2400 block of South 11th Street, was killed just after he stopped to help a pair of stranded motorists on Interstate-95 near Girard Avenue.

Robert Swinehart, 67, of Northeast Philadelphia, surrendered to police March 2, said Capt. Bruce Capriotti of the Accident Investigation Division.

Swinehart was charged with homicide by vehicle, manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. If convicted of all three offenses, he could face a maximum of 20 years in jail, the captain said.

Janaitis, who worked for South Philly Towing, was on duty when he stopped to aid the motorists, said the division's Sgt. George Golden. Mike Otterson, who owns the towing company, confirmed that Janaitis had been on duty at the time, contrary to previous reports stating he was off-duty.

Janaitis had just exited his truck when he was struck and killed by a black Mercedes shortly after 10:30 p.m., Golden said.

Four days later, Swinehart surrendered a convertible 2000 SL 500 Series Mercedes to police and gave a "very limited statement," said Capriotti, who added that the suspect's daughter owns the car.

The captain explained that it took investigators more time to establish that Swinehart was the driver.

"You can have the car but in court you have to put the person behind the wheel in order to have a successful prosecution," Capriotti said. "That is the most important part."

Swinehart "was a person of interest from the start," added the captain.

The District Attorney's Office has no record of convictions for Swinehart, said DA director of communications Cathie Abookire.

South Philly Towing's Otterson said he was somewhat relieved that police had made the arrest, adding, "We'll have to see what justice is implemented on this."

The owner remembered Janaitis as a dedicated, conscientious employee who had worked for him a little less than a year.

"He was a very good person, kindhearted, very jolly, happy-go-lucky type," Otterson said.




Just want to THANK YOU ALL for your support, thoughts and prayers....Our prayers have been answered...They got him..thank god... Thank you soo much all of you... I love this site and im soo glad I found it.... you are all so nice and helpful...like you all said ..one BIG family... everyone stay safe out there....Ill keep updateing you with anything i know as I know... His arrest doesnt bring my bobby back ...but atleast this guy isnt walking freely with his life anymore...

Many thanks..............jaime 670.gif



Originally created on Tow411 in 2005:

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