A Maryland appeals court on Friday heard oral argument about a judge’s decision to throw out the case against a man who had been charged in the deadly hit-and-run of 14-year-old Gavin Knupp outside Ocean City, with both the state and the defense asserting that the legal issue at hand was clear.

The issue: Whether charges were filed in the correct court.

A panel of three judges — Rosalyn Tang, Michael W. Reed and James R. Eyler — listened and asked questions for about 25 minutes in the Appellate Court of Maryland. It’s unclear when the court will issue an opinion.

In 2023, Circuit Judge Brett W. Wilson dismissed the case, ruling that the state’s attorney erroneously filed the charges against Tyler Mailloux, 23, of Berlin, in Worcester County Circuit Court instead of the District Court of Maryland.

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“Mr. Mailloux was charged in the wrong court,” Wilson said. “There was a charging mistake in this matter.”

Worcester County State’s Attorney Kristin Heiser immediately appealed the decision.

Mailloux had been facing 17 counts in the crash, which took place before 10:45 p.m. on Grays Corner Road near Riddle Lane on July 11, 2022. Prosecutors alleged that he left the scene and kept the 2011 Mercedes-Benz C300 that he was driving that night in a garage.

Stores and restaurants displayed signs that demanded “Justice for Gavin” or read “Do it for Gavin.” People called on law enforcement to file charges, put up billboards and handed out bracelets and stickers to draw attention to the case, which transfixed those in the tight-knit communities of Ocean City and Ocean Pines.

A Facebook group called Do It For Gavin - Justice for Gavin has more than 24,000 members.

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“This case arises out of a truly tragic situation involving a hit-and-run death of a 14-year-old boy in Worcester County,” Assistant Attorney General Zoe White said. “This case in terms of the legal issue, however, the state would submit, presents a straightforward analysis.”

White argued that the state’s attorney had the discretion to file the charges in either the District Court of Maryland or Worcester County Circuit Court.

At one point, Tang asked White where she thought the trial judge went astray in his decision. She replied that, with all due respect, his ruling “didn’t make a lot of sense.”

Family photo of Gavin Knupp
14-year-old Gavin Knupp is pictured in this family photo. (Courtesy photo)

But Assistant Public Defender Celia Anderson Davis, Mailloux’s attorney, claimed that the legal issue in the case was “clear as a bell” and asked the panel to uphold the decision.

Davis contended that the state’s attorney should have filed the charges in the District Court of Maryland.

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“It’s the place where it’s supposed to start,” Davis said. “They always start in the district court.”

“Mr. Mailloux,” she added, “will have to face these charges at some point, in some court.”