A dragnet of thousands of vehicles -- winnowed down by the crime lab, anonymous tips and tedious detective work -- helped cops crack a months-old fatal hit-and-run that killed a construction worker on a Fort Salonga roadside, Suffolk police said Saturday.
That search led detectives to John Pappias of Northport and his black 1996 Chevrolet Tahoe, and Saturday afternoon he was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a fatal motor vehicle crash, police said.
The crash, on Oct. 28 at 1:35 a.m., killed Victor Schultz, 49, of Massapequa Park. He had been working overnight for a paving company and loading a milling machine onto a trailer on the side of Fort Salonga Road, or Route 25A, near the Sunken Meadow Parkway.
Analyzing paint chips, pieces of headlight lens cover and other detritus from the assailant's vehicle, the county crime lab concluded that police should look for a vehicle with GMC parts made from 1995 to 2006.
But GMC manufactures parts for many makes, including Chevrolet.
"It was pretty much a needle in a haystack initially," said Fourth Squad Det. Sgt. John Twiname, a case supervisor.
Using computers, detectives determined there were about 2,500 vehicles in the New York City-Long Island area that fit their criteria. But they narrowed their focus to about 20: vehicles fitting the criteria in the Fort Salonga, Kings Park, Huntington and Northport area.
Then anonymous tips describing the driver, and detectives' canvassing -- any undamaged vehicle was essentially ruled out -- led them to Pappias, 46, who police say confessed.
He's to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Sunday.