DEER PARK, Texas — A Deer Park man with a history of driving while intoxicated is facing a murder charge following the tragic death of 17-year-old Marissa Burke, a student in the Deer Park ISD. Leland Benfrank Smith, 55, was initially arrested for intoxication assault after his truck veered onto the sidewalk and struck Marissa as she was walking with her sister on Nov. 14. However, the charge against Smith was upgraded to murder after Marissa passed away on Friday.
Smith’s arrest was not his first brush with the law for DWI offenses. Records show that he has three previous DWI convictions and has faced other charges, including burglary, theft, and resisting arrest. Marissa’s family members expressed their anger and disappointment over the situation, with her stepfather, Ryan Herring, stating, “There’s nothing we can do to bring Marissa back but there’s something we can do to ruin his life.”
Marissa’s family faced a heart-wrenching decision to remove her from life support, after doctors determined that there was no hope for recovery. She passed away peacefully with her loved ones by her side. Described as introverted, quirky, and caring, Marissa was mourned by those who knew her as a young lady with a bright future ahead of her. A GoFundMe account has been established to help with medical and funeral expenses in the wake of this devastating loss.
The tragedy has rocked the Deer Park community and prompted an outpouring of love and support for Marissa’s family. Her passing serves as a reminder of the devastating impact of drunk driving and the importance of preventing such tragedies in the future. Deepest sympathies go out to Marissa’s loved ones during this difficult time.