A woman suffering from brain cancer says goodbye to her 17-year-old daughter killed by a drunk driver.

HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: A Texas mother fighting for her life in a hospital bed was forced to say goodbye to her daughter by phone after she was fatally shot by a pickup truck driven by a “reformed” alcoholic.

Marissa Burke, 17, was walking home from school when she was hit by 55-year-old Leland Smith on Georgia Avenue in Deer Park, Texas, on November 14th.

Leland Smith, who claimed to be “reformed,” is a “serial” criminal who runs a Christian restoration ministry.

Burke was hit by a pickup truck driven by Smith, 55, a serial offender who runs a Christian recovery ministry and says he has overcome his own addiction problems, the Daily Mail reported.

Marissa Burke, 17, was walking home from school when she was hit (Facebook)

He failed a breath test at the scene and was charged with capital murder. He has a history of driving under the influence and other crimes, including assault, burglary, theft and resisting arrest.

In 2008 and 2009, Smith was intoxicated, resulting in injuries to an elderly person. For this crime he received 30 days and two years. He attacked someone in 2017 and received another 30 days.

The charge was upgraded to capital murder. He is being held in the Harris County Jail on $100,000 bail. His next court appearance is November 27.

Leland Smith (Deer Park Police)
Leland Smith Smith was intoxicated in 2008 and 2009, resulting in injuries to an elderly man. For this crime he received 30 days and two years (Deer Park police).

However, Smith reportedly stated on his LinkedIn profile that he has changed, aiming to help others achieve what he had.

“I have overcome my own problems with drug and alcohol addiction, and I love using my experiences to help others do the same,” he wrote.

“I have worked and served in the non-profit sector since 2002. I enjoy helping individuals and organizations achieve their mission goals,” he added. “I pray that I can help you in some small way,” he continued.

Gloria Burke could only talk to her daughter Marissa Burke on speakerphone.

Marissa’s mother, Gloria, who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, was able to “leave herself out of the hospital… to see her daughter as soon as possible.”

She managed to spend the whole day with her before she was taken back to the hospital, but on speakerphone, the publication reports.

She could only hear her daughter’s voice on speakerphone as her condition worsened, with doctors giving her only a “1% chance of survival.”

However, she had to remain on life support given her young age, and after the deadlines were met and all the scans and tests were done, [doctors] pulled out the breathing tube and she passed away very peacefully,” Marissa’s stepfather Ryan Herring said.

Ryan Herring (Facebook)
‘[Doctors] pulled out the breathing tube, and she left very peacefully,” said Marissa’s stepfather Ryan Herring (Facebook).

“She was so brave. She didn’t move, she didn’t flinch,” said Marissa Burke’s stepfather Ryan Herring.

Herring went on to talk about Marissa, saying, “She was so brave. She didn’t move, didn’t flinch, only five minutes passed and she was ready to go – we all knew that.”

Gloria was also heartbroken and devastated by the loss of her daughter, who was considered a caring and mature young woman with a bright future ahead of her. Gloria, Herring said, was readmitted to the hospital. He said Marissa’s sister witnessed the accident.

Bailey Burke (KTRK)
Marissa Burke’s sister
Bailey Burke witnessed the accident (KTRK)

The car, in his words, “drove into the oncoming lane, drove onto the side of the road and onto the sidewalk. “I pinned her under my truck and against a pole.”

Marissa Burke’s family expresses anger and grief over the driver’s senseless act.

Herring, who has been in treatment for addiction for 12 years, according to the report, expressed anger and grief over the tragic loss of his stepdaughter. “I cannot express how angry I am that a man took an innocent life so tragically and so cruelly,” he said.

“There’s nothing we can do to bring Marissa back, but there is something we can do to ruin his life,” Marissa’s sister Bailey added.

Marissa had plans to attend college after graduation and pursue a career as an occupational therapist, inspired by her mother’s battle with cancer.

According to Herring, Marissa was “a beautiful young girl with a wonderful sense of humor.” “She was always full of life and love for her friends and family,” the family wrote, adding, “She was very mature and intelligent for her age, often looking at the world with adult eyes.”


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