David Strowhouer, the five-time DUI offender who authorities say killed Deana Eckman by drunkenly crashing his Dodge truck head-on into her Subaru in Upper Chichester last month, appeared in court Tuesday for the first time since he was charged in her death.
The 30-year-old Newtown Square man faces a relatively new offense, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, which carries a mandatory minimum of seven years for repeat offenders. Yet prosecutors will have to wait until later this month to prove to a judge that they have enough evidence to try the case.
At the request of Strowhouer’s attorney, Brian Patrick Malloy, the preliminary hearing was continued until March 28.
At first, Strowhouer, wearing a dark-blue jumpsuit and shackles over his thin frame, expressed frustration at Magisterial District Judge David R. Griffin over the fact that no attorney was listed for him on court documents.
“This is outrageous,” Strowhouer said. “I don’t understand. He’s come and seen me. He’s told me he’s going to represent me.”
Strowhouer couldn’t remember the name of his attorney until Malloy arrived around 10:30 a.m., met with prosecutors and Strowhouer, then appeared in front of the judge to request the continuance.
Two family friends of Strowhouer sat behind him in the small Linwood courtroom. One said, “I wish the DUI program worked the first time,” but both she and the man with her declined to give their names.
Since 2010, Strowhouer had pleaded guilty to DUI five times, four in Chester County. In a 2017 case, the most recent before last month’s fatal wreck, he was sentenced to one to five years in prison, but was granted parole in less than a year due to good behavior. He was released in September.
Eckman’s family has been outspoken about the tragedy, questioning how Strowhouer was on the road and vowing to scrutinize laws regarding repeat DUI offenders. “I can’t believe how he slipped through the system like this," Eckman’s mother, Roseann DeRosa, told The Inquirer last month. She was not in court Tuesday.
The crash occurred around 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 16. On their way back from a nephew’s birthday party in Maryland, Eckman and her husband, Christian, were about five minutes from home when they encountered the vehicle driven by Strowhouer, authorities said. Witnesses said Strowhouer crossed the double-yellow line of Route 452 and struck the Eckmans’ Subaru RX head-on.
When authorities arrived, they found Deana Eckman unresponsive amid the wreckage. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Her husband, who had been driving, survived. He suffered a broken pelvis.
Police couldn’t immediately locate the truck’s driver, they said, but then Strowhouer approached them. He was visibly drunk and smelled of alcohol, they said. He first told police he’d been a passenger in the truck, which was en route from his mother’s funeral reception at Barnaby’s in Havertown to Chester, where he planned to buy cocaine.
Authorities said they later learned Strowhouer was driving alone in someone else’s truck. In his wallet, they found his expired Florida driver’s license. His Pennsylvania license had been suspended due to his history of DUIs in the state.
If Strowhouer is found guilty, he’d be the first person in Delaware County to be convicted of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence. He’s also charged with aggravated assault by vehicle, causing an accident involving death, and related offenses. He is being held at Delaware County Prison without bail.