Wilkinsburg man gets 3-6 years in jail for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk

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A Wilkinsburg man was sentenced to 3 to 6 years in prison this morning for killing a pedestrian as he drove drunk nearly four years ago in Homewood.

Johnathan Burrell, 33, also will serve 4 years of probation after pleading guilty in October to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and two counts of aggravated assault.

According to police, Burrell had been out drinking with friends the night of Feb. 20, 2010, and then early the next morning dropped them off and went to an after-hours club called Bull Dogs on Lincoln Avenue.

Burrell told police he had been drinking beer and tequila and “he had been there drinking for a long time.”

He left the club about 5 a.m. and while driving on Frankstown Avenue and Sterrett Street struck a group of pedestrians. The defendant told police he didn’t know what he’d hit and he left the scene.

Ayesha Burks, 29, was killed and two other people with her were seriously injured. One sustained a double skull fracture and still has headaches, said Assistant District Attorney Rachel Newman. The other sustained severe leg injuries and had to have her ankles reconstructed.

Police located the car Burrell was driving about 12:45 p.m. on Feb. 21.

At the hearing before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski, Burrell apologized for his actions.

His attorney, Bruce Carsia, told the judge his client had six years military service, including four years in the Army, where he served in Iraq, and has a 30 percent disability from injuries he sustained.

Burrell said he hoped the victims’ families could forgive him, and that his actions were unintentional, although he understands their consequences.

In addition, his family apologized to the friends of the victims who were in attendance.

Monique Williams, who was Burks’ best friend, said she was babysitting the woman’s now-12-year-old daughter when she learned of the accident.

“It was just devastating,” she said.

Dawn Evans said, “We’re happy that justice was served, but it can never bring our friend back.”

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. First Published December 11, 2013 11:14 AM

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