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Despite an appeal, a Chester County man is heading back to prison for his sixth DUI

David Strowhouer, 32, was sentenced to 24 to 51 years in state prison for killing Deana Eckman in his sixth DUI crash in nine years.

David Strowhouer, seen here in 2019, was sentenced to 24 to 51 years in state prison in 2019 after pleading guilty to killing Deana Eckman in a head-on collision while driving drunk.
David Strowhouer, seen here in 2019, was sentenced to 24 to 51 years in state prison in 2019 after pleading guilty to killing Deana Eckman in a head-on collision while driving drunk.Read moreDAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer

Moments before he was again sent to prison for decades, David Strowhouer addressed the family of the woman he killed in 2019 during his sixth DUI in nine years.

“I’ve had a whole lot of time to think about what I did, and believe me when I say I can’t believe I took a human life,” Strowhouer, 32, said Monday to the family and friends of Deana Eckman as they gathered in a cramped courtroom in Media. “I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will be in jail longer that most people in a DUI case, and I deserve that.”

Delaware County Court Judge Mary Alice Brennan then sentenced Strowhouer to 24 to 51 years in state prison for third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle while DUI, and related offenses. That sentence was 18 months shorter than the one she imposed two years ago that Strowhouer successfully appealed.

» READ MORE: Five DUI convictions, then a fatal crash. Now, a Delco mother is left to grieve - and rage.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Daniel McDevitt said the sentence was appropriate.

“Sadly, the law did not protect Deana Eckman and her husband … but going forward a lengthy sentence of incarceration will protect the public,” McDevitt said, noting that Strowhouer was caught with alcohol while in prison earlier this year. “I think the defendant either can’t be rehabilitated, or chooses not to be. But this court shouldn’t take a chance on him.”

In February 2019, Strowhouer was behind the wheel of his father’s pickup truck after a day of drinking following his mother’s funeral, investigators said. He swerved into oncoming traffic while trying to pass a van in Upper Chichester Township and crashed head-on into the Subaru WRX driven by Eckman’s husband.

Eckman, 45, and her husband were on their way home from their niece’s birthday party. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators later determined that Strowhouer also had cocaine, Valium, and marijuana in his system at the time. He had been paroled from state prison after his fifth DUI just five months before the fatal crash.

Strowhouer pleaded guilty and Brennan sentenced him to 25½ to 51 years in state prison. That sentence exceeded the one prosecutors requested, but she said the increased penalty was warranted.

“Mr. Strowhouer, you are here because of decisions that you made,” Brennan told Strowhouer at the time. “Your decisions have determined your destiny.”

But the state Superior Court later ruled that she had improperly sentenced Strowhouer to a harsher sentence than the law allows for one of the charges he faced — aggravated assault by vehicle — and as a consequence, his entire sentence was overturned.

His new sentence, imposed Monday, fell within the range allowed by the law.

Eckman’s family made it clear that no sentence would ever mend their grief.

Roseann DeRosa, Eckman’s mother, tearfully showed a pendant containing her daughter’s ashes to Strowhouer in the courtroom.

“David Strowhouer is here today asking for a reduced sentence, but he gave my daughter a death sentence,” DeRosa told Brennan. “He took her presence from every family gathering.”

Since Strowhouer’s arrest, the DeRosas have become vocal proponents of legislation aimed at changing the state’s criminal code to increase penalties for repeat DUI offenders.

A first attempt at that reform, named “Deana’s Law,” sputtered in Harrisburg last year after being weighed down by amendments and challenged by the ACLU and other critics. Last week, a second attempt at the bill passed the House, and will head to the Senate.