DEER PARK, Texas – A Deer Park High School student who was critically injured in a crash involving an intoxicated driver Tuesday while walking home from school has died from her injuries, the Deer Park Police Department said.
Leland Smith, 55, was arrested and was first charged with intoxication assault for causing life-threatening injuries to 17-year-old Marissa Burke, but late Friday afternoon, prosecutors with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office changed that to a far more serious crime of felony murder.
Smith is accused of causing the crash that killed Marissa Burke.
According to investigators with the Deer Park Police Department, Smith was driving his white Ford F150 northbound in the 2100 block of Georgia Avenue at around 3:30 p.m.
According to investigators, Smith veered across two southbound lanes and struck a light pole before continuing down the sidewalk for about 20 yards, where his vehicle came to a stop. The light pole struck the 17-year-old girl in the head, slamming her to the ground, as she was walking on the sidewalk in the area.
Burke was reportedly treated by emergency personnel and later transported via life-flight to Memorial Herman for treatment. She later died from her injuries.
Police said the suspect underwent field sobriety testing and was found to be impaired.
Deer Park High School South Campus Principal Kirk Taylor issued the following statement on the tragic incident:
“I am writing on behalf of the Deer Park High School-South Campus community to share some heartbreaking news. Today, we are mourning the loss of a South Campus student. At about 4 p.m. today, we received word of a major accident involving a vehicle and a pedestrian who was later identified as a South Campus teenager. The accident reportedly took place near the corner of Georgia Avenue and Wildwood Drive in Deer Park. Due to privacy laws, we cannot share specific information about the student, but it’s possible that your child is already aware of her name and other details. That brings me to the other reason for this message. Every teenager processes grief in his or her own way, and, as a parent myself, I know all too well that it’s sometimes hard to know how to respond. I want to provide whatever help I can to you tonight, so I am attaching a document called Supporting Your Child that is recommended by our counseling staff. When no words come to mind, our counselors say that a hug works well. Even if your child did not know the student, hearing about today’s accident could remind him or her about the loss of a loved one or a friend. Those memories can be accompanied by strong emotions. Grief is a normal response, but prolonged grief or intense emotional distress could mean that your child needs more attention from trained professionals. If you feel he or she needs additional assistance, please contact the South Campus Counseling Office tomorrow at 832.668.7261. Counselors will also be available at school for the rest of the week to provide emotional support to students. I hope you will join me and the entire South Campus team in keeping the student’s family in your thoughts and prayers today and in the difficult days that lie ahead.”
Smith has a long rap sheet of crimes, including three other convictions for driving while intoxicated.
If convicted of felony murder, he could face up to 99 years in prison.
He is being held on $100,000 bond.