Pitt student found guilty in fatal fall 2018 car collision

By Erica Guthrie, Senior Staff Writer

A 23-year old Pitt social work student was found guilty Wednesday of killing a young woman last fall while driving under the influence.

Avalon resident Robert Darrisaw Jr. will be sentenced on Sept. 17 by Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas Flaherty on charges of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, aggravated assault while driving under the influence, involuntary manslaughter, two counts of reckless endangerment, two other counts related to driving under the influence and four traffic-related counts. He faces three to six years in prison.

Darrisaw testified that on the night of Sept. 22, 2018 he was at a birthday party at the Hampton Inn in West Mifflin, about 20 minutes south of Oakland, with other students from the University’s Graduate School of Social Work. He told the court he had three drinks, and then boarded a party bus which drove around the city. The bus returned to the hotel at around 3 a.m., and Darrisaw then left in his car.

But shortly before 4 a.m., Darrisaw’s Chevrolet Sonic sedan drove through a grass median, hit a rock and a road sign, and then struck a Volkswagen Jetta at the intersection of Lebanon Church Road, Buttermilk Hollow Road and Mac Arther Drive in West Mifflin. Two of the three passengers in the Jetta, both young women, were rushed with Darrisaw to UPMC Mercy with serious injuries. The third passenger, Marlee Anne Hill, 19, of McKeesport, was pronounced dead at the scene.

While striking the Jetta, Darrisaw also hit a natural gas main, which was found leaking when police arrived on the scene. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one of the responding officers, David Haines, testified that he and another officer carried an unconscious Darrisaw about 100 yards away to wait for ambulances to arrive, as they were worried about the gas main exploding.

Darrisaw’s blood alcohol content, taken within two hours of the collision, was 0.163 — more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

According to the Post-Gazette, Darrisaw testified that he took Zyprexa, a medication which can be used to treat mental health conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Darrisaw also claimed he had a health condition that caused him to pass out multiple times since high school. But, a prosecutor, Allegheny County Deputy District Attorney Kevin Chernosky, said Darrisaw’s medical record had no documentation of any such condition.

“If he had a legitimate condition, he would have been [getting treatment] for it,” Chernosky said. “He would have told officers about it.”

Judge Flaherty said Darrisaw provided no evidence of a medical condition.

Darrisaw was allowed to return home with an electronic monitoring device before his sentencing.