It took six drunken-driving convictions, the final one from a crash that killed a woman in February, for David Strowhouer to get a prison sentence that will keep him off the road for decades.
A Delaware County judge on Thursday sentenced the 30-year-old Newtown Square man to 25½ to 51 years in prison. Strowhouer was charged in the death of Deana Eckman, 45, of Brookhaven. He was on probation for one of his DUI convictions at the time of the deadly crash.
Eckman was a passenger in a car driven by her husband, heading to a nephew’s birthday party, when Strowhouer veered into their lane in Upper Chichester Township while trying to pass a van and struck their vehicle head-on.
Strowhouer pleaded guilty in August to third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, and a host of other felonies. Those offenses carried a maximum penalty of 85 years in prison.
Judge Mary Alice Brennan’s sentence was higher than the 21½ to 43 years requested by Senior Deputy District Attorney Daniel McDevitt during the hearing at the courthouse in Media.
“Mr. Strowhouer, you are here because of decisions that you made,” the judge told the weeping defendant. “Your decisions have determined your destiny.”
Strowhouer, dressed in a dark blue prison uniform, read a statement and repeatedly apologized to Eckman’s family, saying he wished he could undo what he had done, “but I can’t, and I’m sorry.”
In an interview later, McDevitt said Strowhouer “never should have been on the road. He refused to be rehabilitated, and he continued to drink and drive, and, sadly, someone had to lose their life before he’s off the street for decades.”
Strowhouer’s attorney, Brian Malloy, told the judge there were no excuses for his client’s actions, but argued that he was capable of being rehabilitated and asked for a sentence of 10 to 43 years.
He called his client “a sad man who has been struggling with drug and alcohol abuse and struggling with decision-making.” He declined to say whether he intended to appeal the sentence.
Christian Eckman, 48, Deana’s husband of 17 years, said he was satisfied with the sentence.
“He can do his remorseful stuff all he wants, but he had plenty of chances,” Eckman said.
Of his wife, he said, “There really are no words to describe her. I used to kid she was 4-foot-11 but left a footprint the size of a building.... She was just a sweetheart.”
Deana’s mother, Roseann DeRosa, said of the sentence: “It’s about time because he should have gotten more time on the fourth and fifth DUIs. The judge did her job this time.”
Strowhouer, she said, “has given us a lifetime of grief, so I wish nothing more than that for him. ... He drove like that for 10 years. Something should have kicked in his head to do the right thing. He was like a wrecking ball on the road. I’m surprised he hasn’t killed more people.”
She said her daughter “was a phenomenal person. Always giving, always helping people.”
In August, the family welcomed Strowhouer’s guilty plea, saying it was the first time he had truly faced the consequences of his actions after five DUI convictions in nine years.
Strowhouer was behind the wheel of his father’s pickup truck after a day of drinking following his mother’s funeral, investigators said.
His brother and sister-in-law, in testimony at his preliminary hearing, said they tried to prevent him from taking the vehicle and ran after him when he left their home to climb into its driver’s seat.
After the crash, Strowhouer initially lied to investigators, saying he was a passenger in the truck and that it had been driven by his cousin. That cousin, police later determined, was in Puerto Rico at the time.
Strowhouer tested positive for cocaine, marijuana, and Valium, investigators said. His driver’s license had been revoked in Pennsylvania and a second license issued to him in Florida had expired by the time of the crash.
Strowhouer had been paroled from a state prison sentence in Pennsylvania for DUI five months before the fatal crash.