Wreck chasing in Philadelphia will move from reality TV to a murder trial after a judge Tuesday held a tow truck driver on charges he fatally mowed down a rival in a videotaped turf dispute.
Glen McDaniel and Ray Santiago worked for competing companies and found themselves at the same busy intersection on Sept. 26. After the pair locked horns in a fist fight, McDaniel hopped in his tow truck and ran over Santiago several times, resting his vehicle on the man the third time, authorities said.
"The third time, he locked his brakes over him and then drove off," Assistant District Attorney James F. Berardinelli said.
The 26-year-old McDaniel was held on murder charges Tuesday in the North Philadelphia slaying. Public defender Andrea Konow declined to comment on the case.
A security videotape played at the preliminary hearing shows the 30-year-old Santiago being run over repeatedly as witnesses stand nearby. One witness testified about the ongoing "bad blood" between the companies.
The tow-truck business is serious in Philadelphia, where the cable TV show "Wreck Chasers" was being filmed amid escalating competition _ and violence _ last year.
Officially, police try to rotate accident calls from a list of approved tow companies. But tow operators often thwart that plan by racing to accident scenes before police to sign up frazzled drivers and take their vehicles to favored auto body shops. City council members have complained that tow operators get kickbacks from the repair shops, and car owners are left to pay small fortunes to get their vehicles back.
The 3 a.m. slaying stemmed from the overall turf war, not from any accident that night, Berardinelli said. About a half-dozen drivers had gotten into an argument earlier that night in a nearby parking lot, he said. He did not know whether McDaniel or Santiago were ever filmed for the show.
Santiago's death was perhaps the first fatality in the cutthroat industry. But gunfire had erupted just weeks earlier, when a tow driver shot a competitor at an accident scene over who should claim the wrecked car, police said. Both firms involved in that case were then vandalized in the ensuing weeks, one with a barrage of bullets and the other by a fire that tore through 13 vehicles.
McDaniel is next due in court for his arraignment on April 12.