Prosecutor lists 4-year-old Dakota Wright's numerous injuries

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Four-year-old Dakota Wright was fatally struck by a hit-and-run van outside her Hanover home on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.
(Photo courtesy of

Tony Brent Shower Jr. did nothing to try to avoid fatally hitting 4-year-old Dakota Wright, and afterward he did nothing to stop and help her, first assistant district attorney Tim Barker told jurors.

"He struck her, dragged her, killed her, (and) kept going," Barker said during his opening statement on Tuesday, Nov. 19, at Shower's trial.

Dakota had just arrived home to Princess Street in Hanover in a car driven by her sister when a white work van ran her over in the road and fled the scene, he told jurors.

Barker also told jurors they will be hearing from a number of witnesses and experts, each of whom has a piece of the puzzle regarding the case. When those pieces are fit together, it will be clear Shower is guilty, the prosecutor said.

"You're (also) going to hear the evolution of (the defendant's) story ... from 'I don't know anything' to 'I heard a bump' ... to 'I heard a loud thud,'" Barker said, adding Shower was "trying to squarely pin" this crime on the van's owner, who Barker maintains loaned Shower that van.

Defense attorney Eric Wayne White, in his opening statement, asked jurors to keep an open mind.

He said it's natural for people to assume a criminal defendant did something wrong but said the law requires them to believe he wears "a cloak of innocence."

"No doubt Tony has issues, and you will hear about those things," White said.

Barker on Tuesday read a stipulation into the record regarding the numerous injuries documented during autopsy by forensic pathologist Dr. Barbara Bollinger, who determined Dakota died of multiple blunt-force injuries.

Numerous injuries: Those injuries include numerous fractures and contusions to her head as well as internal bleeding in her head, according to Barker. Dakota suffered multiple skull fractures, bruised lungs, broken ribs and a fractured pelvis, among other injuries, he said.

At just 41 inches tall, Dakota had brain injuries consistent with her being struck by the vehicle on the right side of her head, according to the stipulation.

Jurors have seen video of the fleeing van, as well as a photo of the scene, in which a pool of blood marks the spot where Dakota lay after being struck and dragged.

Also testifying Tuesday were Natalie Meckley, one of Dakota's sisters, and two of the victim's neighbors — Melissa Van Dorn and Matthew Markle.

Meckley testified she'd just driven home with Dakota, and they were getting out of Meckley's car to go inside. She said she heard a loud noise, then saw her little sister lying in the middle of the road.

"When I realized it was her, I ran into my house and started screaming for my mom and stepdad," Meckley told jurors. "My stepdad ran out of the house and picked her up off the road (and did CPR)."

Van Dorn testified she saw a white utility van with a ladder or rack on top drive down Princess Street while she was outside walking her dog.

"Not too long after that I heard a bunch of screaming — a lot of screaming," she told jurors. "A little while later we saw police vehicles."

Markle, who like Van Dorn lived on the same block as Dakota's family, had returned home from shopping when he heard "what sounded like a large crunch," which drew his attention to the street, he told jurors.

Markle testified he saw a white van turning left onto Sprenkle Avenue from Princess Street. At its closest point, the van was just 3 to 5 feet away from him, he said.

He said no one was in the passenger seat but that there was a green glow inside the van that illuminated the driver's face.

He described the driver as a white man in his late 20s or early 30s with a scruffy beard or goatee with scruff going up the sides of his face, darker facial hair and an oblong-shaped face.

In court Tuesday, Markle said Shower resembles the driver of the van that night.

Drug binge? It took about two years for Hanover Police to file charges against Shower, but they were focused on him from the night Dakota was killed, court documents reveal.

Shower had been using heroin and crack cocaine all day, making trips to Maryland and back to Hanover to replenish his drug supply when it ran out, according to court documents filed by lead Hanover Detective Jared Auman.

Auman and other investigators gathered physical evidence found in the grille of the white utility van that Shower was allegedly driving when it struck Dakota in the 200 block of Princess Street in Hanover on Nov. 22, 2016, and fled the scene, documents state. 

Obituary for Dakota Skye Wright at Wetzel Funeral Home

They conducted repeated interviews with Shower, as well as with witnesses, before arresting Shower on Nov. 15, 2018, according to police.

Shower, 35, of York City, remains in York County Prison on $100,000 bail, charged with accidents involving death or personal injury/hit-and-run, driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license.

The hit-and-run charge is a second-degree felony.

Crossing street: Dakota had just arrived home with an adult and was crossing the street to her home when she was struck by the white utility van with a ladder rack at 7:09 p.m., police have said. Police broadcast a description of the hit-and-run van.

Two miles away and 18 minutes later, a Penn Township police officer pulled over a van that matched the description, in which Shower was the sole passenger and a man identified by Barker as Stephen Gambal III was driving, according to charging documents.

Tony Shower Jr. in an August 2018 mugshot.

There was insufficient evidence to hold the men at the time, police said, and they were eventually released.

Later that night, West Manheim Township Police also stopped the van. This time, Gambal — who owns it — was alone. Officer Shawn Ricketts was able to spot several hairs in the grille and headlight area of the van, court documents state.

At that point, the van was secured and a search warrant was obtained to examine it more closely.

Investigators found damage to the front end consistent with the hit-and-run that killed Dakota, according to police.

Gambal told police that Shower dropped him off at a local restaurant about a mile from where Dakota was killed then headed off to buy more drugs, driving in the general direction of Princess Street in Hanover, documents state.

Changing versions? Shower initially told investigators he didn't know anything about the hit-and-run and that he didn't drive the van.

He later admitted he sometimes drove the van and also admitted he and Gambal were driving to Baltimore and back that day to purchase more heroin and crack when they ran out, according to charging documents.

Dakota Wright, 4, was fatally struck by a hit-and-run utility van outside her Hanover home on Nov. 22, 2016.
(Photo courtesy of Ginger Wright and Facebook)

Shower then told police that Gambal was driving and struck what Shower thought was an animal, documents state. He later modified that statement as well, police allege, by saying he heard a "thud" while Gambal was driving and that Gambal said he'd just struck a child.

But a witness to the fatal crash told police the driver was the only person in the van and that the driver resembled Shower, not Gambal, according to police. Gambal also confirmed it was Shower who was driving, police said.

Shower's driver's license has been suspended since 2002, documents state.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.