Suspect arrested in fatal Penn Hills hit-and-run; car owner turns herself in |

Suspect arrested in fatal Penn Hills hit-and-run; car owner turns herself in

Surron Burch
Modesty L. Hopper
Joseph Morris

The man authorities say was driving the car in a fatal Penn Hills hit-and-run crash last month was arrested Wednesday night.

Surron Burch, 21, no address released, is charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter and related counts.

His arrest at a Penn Hills home by the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office Fugitive Squad is the end of a long search.

Joseph Morris, 51, was walking from work after dark April 28 when he was struck by a car on Hershey Avenue and dragged about a half-mile to Universal Road, according to police. He was dead at the scene.

Allegheny County detectives have searched for a light blue Saturn since then, and a tip last Friday led them to the parking lot of the Hi View Gardens housing complex in McKeesport.

Modesty Hopper, 21, the registered owner, agreed to speak with investigators, first telling them the car is uninsured and no one drives it, according to a criminal complaint. Pressed on the damage to the car’s hood, she told them a tree branch fell on it, police said.

Detectives said a tree branch couldn’t cause that amount of damage. Hopper said she’d struck a tree, according to the complaint. She told the officers nobody had driven her car on April 28.

Police gathered surveillance footage from outside the apartment complex. They said the video shows a man in a red, hooded sweatshirt getting into a Saturn car about 4 p.m. on the day Morris was killed. The same driver returned the car about 10 p.m., and Hopper arrived in a different car moments later, police said.

The two can be seen on camera talking and examining the Saturn’s damage before they walk into the building together, according to the complaint.

Presented with the footage, Hopper allegedly told police she knows the man only as “Bub” or “Bubish,” police said. She refused to give detectives the man’s real name.

A search of Hopper’s phone showed a series of text messages with a particular phone number.

About 7:30 p.m. on April 28, the number sends Hopper a message stating, “I’m in that Saturn,” to which Hopper says “OK.” The ensuing conversation includes Hopper asking the person to buy some marijuana, police said.

About 10:30 p.m. that night, Hopper texted another person about the damage, saying the unidentified man “hit somebody in my car my (expletive) windshield is busted,” according to the complaint.

Hopper allegedly wrote, in part, to the same person the next morning: “(He) keep tryna say some dude was running and jumped up on the car like I’m (expletive) stupid.”

Police wrote that they found photos of the Saturn’s damage on Hopper’s phone, as well as a screenshot of a Safelite Autoglass estimate for $218.

Police, on May 11, tried again to get the identity of the driver from Hopper, who “refused to speak with detectives.”

Police said Tuesday that Hopper was at large, facing charges of hindering apprehension for refusing to give police Burch’s name.

She turned herself in Wednesday.

Allegheny County police offered a $13,000 reward for information that lead to the arrest of the driver.

Jacob Tierney, Megan Guza and Dillon Carr are Tribune-Review staff writers. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter @Soolseem. Contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib. Contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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