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

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

1164491_web1_Surron-Burch
Surron Burch
1164491_web1_php-hitandrunsuspect01-052319
Modesty L. Hopper
1164491_web1_php-hitandrunsuspect
WPXI
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.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.