Bethlehem Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY BERNIE O’HAREDarious Condash visited this WaWa, located in Hanover Township, shortly before his death, and dropped a piece of candy while crossing the street. PRESS PHOTO BY BERNIE O’HAREDarious Condash visited this WaWa, located in Hanover Township, shortly before his death, and dropped a piece of candy while crossing the street.

Atkins convicted

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 by BERNIE O’HARE Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Hit-and-run driver’s explanation fails to sway jury

Following a four-day trial in a crowded Northampton County courtroom, Royce Atkins, age 23, was convicted Nov. 3 in a hit-and-run accident that ended the life of 9-year-old Darious Condash, a fourth grade student at Sheckler ES in Catasaqua.

Condash was killed by a car driven by Atkins on Schoenersville Road when he stopped to pick up a piece of candy in the company of an older cousin and friend.

The jury reached its verdict after just two hours of deliberation, spending only slightly more time than defense attorney Jack McMahon took in his closing argument.

Judge Michael Koury immediately revoked Atkins’ bail. Instead of returning to his Hanover Township home, he was led away in handcuffs to Northampton County jail while his attorney claimed that Judge Koury was being “cruel.” Atkins will be sentenced Jan. 20, 2017, and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of three years behind bars.

So ends the latest chapter in the saga that first began during the evening rush hour on Nov. 6, 2015, when Condash and an older cousin and friend visited the local WaWa for a Friday night snack. Atkins was on his way home for a small party he was having at his home later that night with friends.

In his testimony, Atkins said he had worked a full day, but Assistant District Attorney Joseph Lupackino presented evidence that Atkins had actually punched out two hours earlier than he had said.

Atkins, an Eagle Scout, said that as he drove along Schoenersville Road at about 40 mph, he felt what he thought was a “thud.” Thinking he may have hit a pothole, he pulled into Oasis Restaurant to check his car for damage. He left because the parking lot was full and people were honking their horns at him. He saw nothing down the road, and continued home. When he arrived home, he parked his car in the garage and was “absolutely shocked by the damage I saw because it did not correlate to the sound I heard.” He said that “the last thing I thought is that it would have been a child.”

It was.

Forensic evidence gathered at the scene and from the car established that Darious Condash was stuck by the car, while bending over, possibly out of the view of Atkins. But it also established that Condash’s face was rubbed up along the grill and from there onto the hood of the Mazda, where his head and shoulders would have been visible. His eyelash was actually imprinted into the hood of the car. His tooth left a scrape mark along the hood.

In Lupacinko’s words, he was “face to face” with Atkins until the force of the collision actually made him briefly airborne, knocking him right out of his sneakers.

Atkins insisted he had no idea that he hit anyone, although he later told his friends he had hit a “small deer” while driving along Steuben Road. He admitted that was a lie, and that in the back of his mind, he was beginning to realize that he had stuck and killed this child.

“I was scared,” he admitted. “I did not know what to do.” He wanted to speak to his parents, with whom he lives, but they were away in Mexico. So he did nothing.

He denied that he hid his car, though it was locked in the garage at his parents’ home and he took his mother’s car to work on Monday. He said the garage has windows.

Atkins testified in a monotone. He never expressed any remorse or sympathy for Darious Condash or his family, but insisted he would have “stopped immediately” if he thought he had hit Condash.

“That’s the way I was raised,” he said.

Both McMahon and Lupacinko would later say that the DNA evidence, placing Condash on the hood of Atkins’ car, was probably the deciding factor.

This prosecution was brought by Detective Gary Hammer of the Colonial Regional Police Department.