Crime & Courts

Boy, 7, killed in fall from stolen pickup; teen faces charges

FORT LAWN -- A 7-year-old Fort Lawn boy died Monday afternoon when authorities say he fell from the cab of a stolen pickup truck as it sped down S.C. 9.

John Jerchon Bailey Jr. died in the roadway, authorities said, although they haven't seen any indication that he was struck by a vehicle.

They don't know how Bailey fell from the truck, said Fort Lawn Police Chief Mike Revels.

Police charged 17-year-old Antonio Celey Jr. with driving without a license, Revels said.

They expect to charge Celey with possession of a stolen vehicle today, Revels said, but the investigation has been hampered because Celey is deaf, and authorities have struggled to communicate with him.

Celey was being held at the Chester County Detention Center on Monday night. Police were searching for an interpreter.

Here's what authorities say they do know:

On Sunday afternoon, George Katergaris left his 1986 Chevy pickup at the Wagon Wheel restaurant he owns in Fort Lawn.

When Katergaris returned to the eatery Monday morning, the truck was gone, and he reported it stolen.

Shortly before 1 p.m., Katergaris was driving down Shirley Road, the same road he lives on, when he spotted his stolen truck with three people inside.

As soon as Katergaris saw the truck, it pulled into a driveway. Katergaris then tried to block the truck in with his van, but the truck pulled around his vehicle.

The truck then headed toward S.C. 9 with Katergaris following, flashing his lights and blowing his horn.

But the truck didn't appear to slow down for Katergaris or a stop sign and turned right onto S.C. 9, speeding toward Richburg.

About 150 yards down the road, Bailey fell out of the vehicle.

He died at the scene.

The truck continued down S.C. 9 to Williams Street, a dead-end road. The truck turned onto Williams and the driver and an 11-year-old boy jumped out of the truck while it was still moving.

The vehicle struck a house, but no one, including the driver and the other passenger, was hurt.

On Monday afternoon, police interviewed Celey and the 11-year-old, who wasn't charged.

But because Celey can't hear and his family told police he couldn't understand written questions, Revels said he couldn't get any solid answers.

"One minute, it's like he understands," he said of Celey. "The next minute, he doesn't."

Revels said Celey and the younger boys were friends from the same mobile home park on Shirley Road.

Family members for Bailey and Celey could not be reached for comment Monday night.

When reached by phone, Joanna Katergaris, George's wife, said her husband followed the boys so he could call the police and tell them which way the truck was going.

She said he was nervous, unsure of what to do.

"He saw something coming out of the truck," she said. "He thought they threw clothes out."

When her husband got to the child, the boy was already dead.

Now, she said, her husband is sick with sadness.

"He's upset," she said. "He's very upset. Everybody tells him, 'It's not your fault. They stole the truck.' But he still says, 'It's my truck.' ... Even though he had nothing to do with that, it hurts because there's a child involved."

-- The (Rock Hill) Herald