Years in prison for driver who killed York County firefighter
The loved ones of Harrisburg Fire Lt. Dennis DeVoe packed Courtroom No.1 in Dauphin County Court to watch as the Harrisburg driver who killed him learned her punishment.
They listened silently on Monday, June 4, as widow Amy DeVoe and daughter Aliza DeVoe spoke about the profound loss they feel and the difficulties they face every day.
DeVoe, 45, of Stewartstown, died at Hershey Medical Center of injuries he suffered March 10, 2017. In addition to being a career firefighter in Harrisburg, he served with Citizens Volunteer Fire Co. of Fawn Grove.
On that night, as he was reporting back to his Harrisburg fire station in order to respond to a fatal house fire, his vehicle was struck by Khanyae Kendall, an 18-year-old Harrisburg woman who was high on PCP and driving a vehicle she'd stolen.
It happened about 8:15 p.m. at the corner of Walnut and North 14th streets. After the crash, Kendall — who had no driver's license — fled the scene and was later captured at Harrisburg Hospital.
Two young children died in the blaze to which DeVoe was responding. Officials have said it started when a battery-operated hoverboard exploded while being charged.
"Denny was a hero in life and continues to be a hero in death," Amy DeVoe said from the witness stand Monday as Kendall listened, her head bowed. "We are devastated."
Five to 12 years: Kendall, who turns 20 later this month, apologized to DeVoe's family and fellow firefighters and said she accepts full responsibility for her actions.
"I never meant to hurt Mr. DeVoe," she said in court. "I've reflected on my actions ... and consequences."
Presiding Dauphin County Common Pleas Judge Scott A. Evans sentenced Kendall to five to 12 years in state prison, with credit for time served. She's been locked up since March 11, 2017.
He also ordered her to pay Harrisburg City $5,000 toward DeVoe's funeral expenses, which were estimated by city fire officials to be $22,000.
Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo noted in court that in many cases, DUI drivers guilty of killing someone made a single error in judgment that could have been avoided.
'Almost inevitable': "In this case, it was almost inevitable," Chardo told the judge, because Kendall was smoking PCP every day.
"This is not an ordinary homicide by vehicle while DUI (case)," the DA said.
Judge Evans said he agreed "it was just a matter of day or time" before Kendall badly hurt or killed someone while driving high.
"Miss Kendall does not even recall taking the car," Evans noted.
Kendall and her defense attorney, Lonny Fish, said she will not appeal the sentence.
She pleaded guilty Feb. 28 to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle, theft, hit and run, DUI, driving without a license, speeding, careless driving, giving false information to police and running a stop sign.
Fish told The York Dispatch that his client has made no excuses for her actions. There was no sentencing agreement in place, Fish said, adding he and Chardo agreed to let the judge decide the proper punishment.
'Hero in death': Amy DeVoe explained on the witness stand that her husband was a hero in death as well as in life because he was an organ donor.
"He saved five lives by donating organs," she said. "His heart is beating in someone else's chest. ... (But) that does not take away the pain and hurt I feel every day."
Amy Devoe said she was speaking in court as a final public tribute to her husband.
"I'm doing it for Denny," she said. "This is my last gift to him."
They were together for nearly seven years and both brought children to the marriage, she told the judge.
Sometimes, she said, "for a split second I forget he's gone."
The DeVoes "had more adventures than one could imagine," she said, including camping on the beach, skiing, fishing and four-wheeling.
"I will never hear his loud, infectious laughs again," she said, and there will be "no more heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast. ... His loss is profound."
As close as brothers: Harrisburg Fire Capt. Brian Bastinelli, who lives in the York area, counted himself among Denny DeVoe's closest friends. He attended Monday's sentencing.
"I don't think it's ever not going to hurt," he told The York Dispatch. "He's the brother that I didn't have."
The two men graduated together from Harrisburg Fire Department's fire academy in 1996.
Bastinelli said the support he and others have received from the firefighting community has helped, then noted that it's been a difficult few years, especially with this year's line-of-duty deaths of two York City firefighters and one York City police officer.
Carson DeVoe was following in his father's footsteps by volunteering with Fawn Grove's Citizens Volunteer Fire Co., where his father had been helping him with his training, according to Bastinelli.
"Every morning I wake up and I think he should be here," Harrisburg City Fire Chief Brian Enterline said of his slain lieutenant. "The world is a totally different place without Denny."
Grieving children: The chief noted that no sentence imposed on Kendall can bring back Denny DeVoe but that the sentencing does bring some closure to grieving family and firefighters.
"There are four kids that are affected and will be affected for the rest of their lives," Enterline said, noting that Aliza DeVoe said in court that her father won't be able to watch her graduate from high school or to someday walk her down the aisle at her wedding.
The chief said she hopes Kendall "adheres to the testimony she gave in court" that she wants to help people once she's released from prison.
"We hope and pray she comes out a changed person so there's not another Denny DeVoe killed," Enterline said.
'Not the same person': After apologizing in court, Kendall said she's taken a number of classes and joined several groups while in Dauphin County Prison, including attending violence-prevention classes and meetings of a group for those with addictive and compulsive behavior.
"I worked on my behavior, my attitude," she said. "I'm definitely not the same person."
Kendall said once released from state prison, "I'd like to help people — give back."
Under cross-examination by Chardo, she admitted she smoked PCP daily, including when she was pregnant with her now nearly 2-year-old son. Kendall confirmed she didn't stop using PCP until she was eight months pregnant and that she resumed using the drug at some point afterward.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.