A Texas mother had to phone her dying daughter from her hospital bed after the girl was left fatally injured by a ‘recovered’ alcoholic who drove his pick-up into her as she walked home from school.
Marissa Burke, 17, was struck in Georgia Avenue on Deer Park by serial offender Leland Smith, 55, who runs a Christian recovery ministry.
Marissa’s mother Gloria, who is being treated in hospital for brain cancer, managed to spend a day by her daughter’s side as doctors battled to save her.
But she could only be there on speakerphone as Marissa’s condition deteriorated and doctors decided there was nothing more to be done.
‘At about 1.20 this morning they pulled the breathing tube and she went very peacefully,’ said stepfather Ryan Herring.
Marissa Burke, 17, was run over and fatally injured on Georgia Avenue in Deer Park
Leland Smith, 55, failed a breath test at the scene and was charged with intoxication assault
Smith boasts he is a reformed alcoholic and runs a Christian recovery program but that cuts little ice in the devastated Deer Park community
‘She was so brave. She didn’t move, she didn’t flinch, it only took about five minutes, and she was ready to go – we all knew it.’
Smith failed a breath test at the scene of the crash which took place at 3.30pm on November 14 and was arrested on a charge of intoxication assault.
That has since been upgraded to felony murder and he is being held at the Harris County Jail on a $100,000 bond ahead of his next court appearance on November 27.
Smith received 30 days for a DUI charge in 2008, and two years for the same crime along with injury to an elderly person in 2009.
He received 30 days for assault in 2017 and has also previously faced charges of burglary, theft and resisting arrest.
But he claimed to be a reformed character in his LinkedIn profile, striving to help others achieve what he had.
‘I have overcome my own issues with drug addiction and alcoholism, and I enjoy using my experience to help others do the same,’ he wrote.
‘I have worked and served in the nonprofit sector since 2002.
‘I love helping individuals and organizations achieve their missional goals.
‘My prayer is that in some small way, I may be of help to you too.’
Gloria Burke (front) could only share her daughter’s final moments by speakerphone as she faced her own battle against brain cancer in a hospital bed
Bailey Burke said her sister was ‘very caring and she put everyone else first’, her stepdad Ryan said Marissa was ‘so brave’ in her final moments
Marissa was planning to go to college after graduating and was considering a career as an occupational therapist after being inspired by her mother’s battle with cancer
Marissa’s family thanked friends and neighbors for their ‘outpouring of love, prayers and support’, and described Marissa as a ‘beautiful young lady with a wonderful sense of humor
That was little comfort to Herring who has himself been in addiction recovery for 12 years.
‘For a man to take an innocent life so tragically and so violently like that, I cannot express how angry I am,’ he said.
‘There’s nothing we can do to bring Marissa back but there’s something we can do to ruin his life,’ added Marissa’s sister Bailey.
‘She was very caring and she put everyone else first.’
Marissa was planning to go to college after graduating and was considering a career as an occupational therapist after being inspired by her mother’s battle with cancer.
In a statement the family thanked friends and neighbors for their ‘outpouring of love, prayers and support’, and described Marissa as a ‘beautiful young lady with a wonderful sense of humor’.
‘She was always full of life and love for her friends and family,’ they wrote.
‘She was very mature and intelligent for her age, oftentimes seeing the world with adult eyes.
‘She had a very bright future ahead of her and she was a very kind and gentle soul, who would do anything for anyone whenever needed.’