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The truck that backed over and killing a 20-month-old boy playing in the parking lot of a Spring Valley, N.Y., community / Steve Lieberman, The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News

SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. - Police have charged a teenage boy with stealing a donation jar filled with about $300 for the family of a 20-month-old boy crushed by a truck.

A detective identified the teen using video surveillance footage from the Rose Avenue Deli, where the jar had been sitting on a counter since shortly after the child's death Friday, Spring Valley Police Chief Paul Modica said.

The jar was stolen Monday night from the deli. Officers staked out the teen's home in the neighborhood and arrested him at about 9 p.m. Tuesday, Modica said.

"The kid took us to where he dumped the jar," Modica said. "We recovered the jar in the woods."

He also gave the detectives a statement about the theft, Modica said. The money has not been recovered, police said.

The teen was arraigned Wednesday by Ramapo Justice Rhoda Schoenberger, who closed the courtroom to the public and sealed his case because the teenager is eligible for youthful offender status. He stood before her handcuffed behind his back, wearing a black shirt, jeans and sneakers. He was taken from the courtroom by a Spring Valley police officer.

The 20-month-old, Dominic Mero, was run over in a parking lot by a 2007 Ford F-150 truck. The 33-year-old driver from Pomona was backing up when the child broke away from an older sibling and ran into the parking area. Lt. Richard Oleszhuck said that, "at first look," there does not appear to be any crime on the driver's part.

The toddler's funeral is scheduled for Friday in Queens.

"With something like this and everything Spring Valley has to deal with, we have seen the community come together," Modica said. "They are collecting money for the parents, then someone steals the jar with the money. It's stupidity."

On Wednesday morning, store employee Eliexcer Lemus said he had not heard that someone had been arrested.

"That's great, perfect," Lemus said. "Everybody was aware of what happened to that baby and even the guy who stole the money knew. Everybody was upset about this."

Lemus said that since the theft, someone brought in a new collection jar that he estimated contained $200.

In addition to the deli collection, more than $600 has been donated to the "Mero Family Fund," said Yossi Gestetner, a co-founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council. One large donation will be given to the funeral home, he said.

Contributing: Ernie Garcia of The Journal News



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Teen charged in theft of money for toddler's funeral

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