Man accused of hitting and killing Deer Park High School student charged with murder

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Monday, November 20, 2023
Man accused of hitting and killing 17-year-old charged with murder
Suspected drunk driver Leland Smith is charged with murder after Deer Park High School student Marissa Burke was hit and killed while walking home.

DEER PARK, Texas (KTRK) -- The driver accused of being under the influence when he hit a Deer Park High School student is now charged with murder.

The deadly crash happened at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 2100 block of Georgia Ave. at Wildwood Drive.

The suspect, identified as 55-year-old Leland Smith, swerved onto a sidewalk, hitting 17-year-old senior Marissa Burke as she was walking home from school, police said.

Marissa was taken to the hospital, but on Friday morning, the decision was made to take her off life support.

"She was so brave. She didn't move, she didn't flinch," Ryan Herring, her stepfather, said. "She didn't look like she was in any pain."

Almost everyone was there, including Marissa's mother, who is in the hospital battling brain cancer.

She was able to visit Marissa for a day before being readmitted and later joined Marissa's final moments over speaker phone.

"It only took about five minutes and she was ready to go. We all knew it," Herring said.

Smith runs an addiction recovery program, and while Herring has been in addiction recovery for 12 years, he said he feels no sympathy for the man who chose to get behind the wheel if he was in fact drunk.

"For a man to take an innocent life so tragically and so violently like that, I cannot express how angry I am," Herring said.

Smith has three prior convictions, including a felony DWI that sent him to prison.

Marissa was getting ready to graduate and go to college. She was deciding between pursuing her love for art or becoming an occupational therapist, a career inspired by her mother's battle with cancer.

Herring said he wants to see Smith found guilty.

The suspect is being held on $100,000 bond after being transferred to the Harris County Jail on Friday.

Marissa's family is asking for the maximum sentence.

As of now, he's due in court on Monday, Nov. 27.

READ RELATED: Deer Park HS student dies after being hit by suspected drunk driver while walking home

Watch the previous report below.

A Deer Park High School South Campus 17-year-old student is on life support after being hit by a suspected drunk driver while walking home.