Orchid hit-and-run victim to be honored at West Point
After Peter Meyer was tragically taken from them by a hit-and-run driver in January 2015, his friends and former co-workers have made sure he won’t be forgotten – especially at a place that was very special to him.
They're donating to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point – where Meyer played football before graduating and being commissioned as an Army officer in 1964 – the $100,000-plus they raised as a reward for the arrest and conviction of the Orchid Island winter resident's killer.
In return for the donation, which will benefit West Point athletic programs, the academy will name the Kimsey Athletic Center's training room in Meyer's honor later this year.
"It's a beautiful and fitting tribute to my dad, and one that would make him very proud and leave him feeling very humbled," said Sue Ross, one of Meyer's daughter. "He loved West Point, so it's the perfect choice.
"I'm absolutely thrilled," she added, "and I know my mom is very pleased."
Pat Walsh, one of Meyer's neighbors at the Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club, launched the campaign to raise the reward money that ultimately went unclaimed. He contacted West Point about the donation after consulting with donors.
Academy officials – specifically, the Army A Club, the fundraising arm of the Army Athletic Association – agreed to honor Meyer, who served in Vietnam as an Airborne-qualified Ranger and won the Bronze Star, after hearing what had happened.
Walsh said he already has wired $100,000 to West Point officials, who are scheduled to meet this week to discuss the wording for a plaque that will be placed in the training room where the academy's athletes, particularly football players, are treated before and after practice sessions and games.
The plaque would recognize the year Meyer graduated, the years he played football at West Point, his military service and his life after the Army, Walsh said. Meyer enjoyed a successful, 31-career with Merrill Lynch before he retired.
"Peter was a special guy beyond what he did at the academy and in the Army," said Walsh, who considered Meyer to be his best friend in Florida. "He was a good family man, a terrific businessman and a true gentleman, as well as a patriot.
"I think it's something that would be great for the kids at West Point to see," he added. "And from what I've been told, that area gets a lot of traffic, with players coming in for rehab and treatment."
Academy officials and Meyer's family have not decided on a date for the dedication ceremony, which will be held in conjunction with a home game during Army's coming football season, possibly the Sept. 1 opener against Fordham.
Walsh said all the donors will be invited to attend the ceremony and "enjoy a football weekend at West Point." He said he expects some Orchid Island winter residents to be there, "since many of us will be up north then, anyway."
Walsh said he raised $117,000 for the reward fund, but some contributors requested that their money be returned after the woman who killed Meyer in a January 2015 hit-and-run incident in Savannah, Ga., pleaded guilty last month.
"We ended up not having to pay the reward, and a lot of Peter's friends who donated money said we should use it for some type of memorial to honor him," Walsh said. "I mentioned it to his daughters, and they thought it would be great if we could do something at West Point, because the place meant so much to him.
"We had some leakage, but we returned less than $10,000," Walsh said. "I'm still holding on to the other $8,000, just in case anyone else wants their money back. If not, we'll send the rest to West Point."
Darcia Lavonde Hyman was sentenced to 15 years in prison – the maximum penalty allowed under Georgia law for vehicular homicide. The 52-year-old Jacksonville woman, who had been held without bond in the Chatham County jail since her November 2015 arrest, must serve at least one-third of her sentence before she can be considered for parole.
Meyer, 72, was driving to Orchid Island from his summer home in Quechee, Vt., on Jan. 4, 2015, when he stopped for the night in Savannah. Traveling with his beloved Yorkshire terrier, Chili, he checked into the midtown Residence Inn.
It was already dark when Meyer walked across Abercorn Street to have dinner at the Bonefish Grill, near the Twelve Oaks Shopping Center. He was struck by an SUV as he waited in the crosswalk to return to his hotel; the impact knocked his body into some roadside bushes, where it was discovered nearly an hour later.
Police and the coroner told his family that Meyer was killed instantly.
The case went unsolved for 10 months – until the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department's Crimestoppers hotline received a call from an anonymous tipster who identified Hymon as the driver who killed Meyer.
Police investigators followed up the call by driving to Jacksonville on Nov. 5, 2015, to interview Hymon at her home. Four days later, they questioned her again, this time in Savannah, where they say she "confessed to the fatal accident."
Police charged Hymon with one count of leaving the scene of an accident involving injury or death. But after examining the evidence, which included DNA-matched samples of Meyer's skin and hair found on Hymon's vehicle, prosecutors opted to take the case to a grand jury. The panel promptly handed down an indictment for vehicular homicide in February 2016, and she was arraigned on that charge in April.
Meyer's family paid to the anonymous tipster the $10,000 reward it put up through the Crimestoppers program. However, the reward money raised by Walsh went unclaimed, prompting the donation to West Point.
"I hope this finally brings closure to Peter's family, but I'm sure they'll have mixed emotions," Walsh said, "because every time they've been to West Point, they were there with Peter."
Ross said the family, including her mother, is looking forward to attending the dedication ceremony. Meyer and his wife, Phyllis, were high school sweethearts who were married for 50 years.
"Everything is tinged with mixed feelings," Ross said. "The happier the event, the sadder it is because dad isn't here to share it with us. So as special as this will be, it will be heartbreaking, too."
Meyer's family has sold the Orchid Island home, but Ross thanked Walsh for his friendship and support throughout the ordeal.
"My family is very grateful for all that Pat has done," she said. "He was a good friend to my dad, and he still is."