As she prepares to bury her daughter on Tuesday, Roseann DeRosa has one burning question: Why?
“I can’t believe how he slipped through the system like this,” she said of David Strowhouer, the five-time DUI offender accused of drunkenly crashing his vehicle into a car that Deana Eckman was riding in last weekend, killing her.
Strowhouer, 30, has been charged with homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, a relatively new charge in Pennsylvania that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison for a repeat offender. If convicted in the death of Eckman, 45, he’d be the first person in Delaware County to be sentenced on that charge.
“I don’t know that he has learned his lesson yet," Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland has said of Strowhouer. "He’s brought tragedy to a family and, to an extent, brought tragedy to his own.”
For the better part of a decade, court records show, Strowhouer has escalated his reckless driving and repeatedly violated his parole by skipping hearings and drinking. Yet in September, 12 months into a one- to five-year sentence in state prison for his fifth DUI offense, he was granted parole.
In releasing him, the state parole board credited his good behavior in the State Correctional Institution at Chester and a positive recommendation from the state Department of Corrections, agency records show. As conditions of his parole, the board ordered him to not drink alcohol or drive without a valid license. (His driver’s license had been suspended after his conviction.)
Police in Upper Chichester Township say Strowhouer ignored both mandates on Feb. 16, when he crashed a Dodge truck head-on into the Subaru RX that Eckman and her husband, Christian, were riding in.
The couple were coming home from their nephew’s birthday party in Maryland. They were five minutes from their house, three blocks from DeRosa’s, when, police say, Strowhouer veered into their lane. Eckman was pronounced dead at the scene. Her husband suffered a fractured pelvis and was taken to a local hospital, where he was released on Monday.
DeRosa is outraged that Strowhouer was on the road at all, let alone driving drunk, as police allege.
“If someone has all of those offenses, they’re going to do it again. It’s just human nature,” DeRosa said. “People do not change that much, not after four DUIs. And he had five."
As of Friday, Strowhouer, who was denied bail and was being held in the county prison, had not retained a lawyer to represent him in the latest case. Efforts to reach his father, William, were unsuccessful. Court records show that between his times behind bars, Strowhouer intermittently held a job as an office assistant at his father’s medical weight loss center in Media.
Strowhouer’s first DUI conviction was in 2010, after police in West Goshen Township pulled him over for speeding in his silver Volkswagen one July evening and found that he had “glassy eyes and slurred speech,” according to the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest. He told the officer he was coming home from a friend’s 21st birthday party and had had two beers. Under further questioning, he said he’d had three.
He failed field sobriety tests, pleaded guilty to DUI, and was sentenced to 72 hours to six months in jail. A month shy of the end of his one-year parole in that case, Strowhouer, driving on a suspended license, crashed the same Volkswagen through a guardrail and into a ditch in Malvern, earning a second DUI charge.
After the 2011 arrest, Strowhouer underwent inpatient substance-abuse treatment. But his assessment after the program, included in court files, noted that his motivation for recovery “appears to be mixed,” given his “minimal investment in following recommendations.”
DeRosa fumed at that assessment.
“He should have never been on the streets,” she said at the kitchen table of her home in Brookhaven. “I’m looking at this like he murdered Deana. To drive so erratically like that shows, to me, he doesn’t value anyone’s life.”
Strowhouer’s pattern of drunken behavior continued for years, records show. In 2014, his parole officer wrote that he had violated probation on his first two DUIs — extended to 2015 — twice by failing to report to the parole department, twice by drinking, and three times by using marijuana, according to documents filed in Chester County.
He racked up another violation that August with his third DUI arrest, when he tried to flee a West Goshen police officer who responded to a 911 call placed by his girlfriend about a domestic dispute, records show.
Strowhouer’s fourth DUI arrest came the following February, when a motorist spotted him driving erratically, nearly striking road signs and veering into oncoming traffic in a manner similar to the crash that killed Eckman. Strowhouer refused to take field sobriety tests, telling the officer who confronted him, “Just arrest me now," according to police paperwork.
His fifth arrest was in 2017, when he nearly fell out of the pickup truck he was driving in Broomall when stopped by a Marple Township officer, according to the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest. Strowhouer told the officer he thought he was a block away from a Marriott hotel that was 14 miles away.
In that case, his first in Delaware County, Strowhouer was sentenced to a minimum of a year in prison. He served that time and was paroled.
Given his history, that decision stunned DeRosa.