Driver in Chesco road rage killing sentenced to 20-40 years

 David Desper, 28, of Trainer, Pa., and the truck he was driving during the shooting (West Goshen PD)

David Desper, 28, of Trainer, Pa., and the truck he was driving during the shooting (West Goshen PD)

A Delaware County man has been sentenced to 20 to 40 years in state prison for shooting and killing 18-year-old Bianca Roberson near the interchange of Routes 100 and 202 in Chester County in June 2017.

“I don’t believe you were afraid,” as the defense had argued, said Judge Ann Marie Wheatcraft to David Desper. “I believe you were angry.”

Bianca Roberson in her high school photo. (Photo courtesy of Mike Marano)

Thursday’s sentencing hearing ended a year and a half search for justice in a case that gripped the region in the summer of 2017. Roberson, a recent graduate of Bayard Rustin High School in Westtown Township, was heading home after shopping for school supplies in Exton. While driving south on Route 100, she attempted to merge into a lane occupied by a red pickup truck.

A single gunshot from the truck driver struck her in the head, killing her.

After a three-day hunt for the man behind the wheel, Desper turned himself in. His Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun matched the weapon that fired the bullet killing Roberson.

In September, Desper, 29, entered an open guilty plea — meaning no specific sentence was negotiated — to third-degree murder and gun charges. Defense attorney Daniel McGarrigle asked for a mitigated sentence of five years and eight months, painting Desper as an immature man who “made a God-awful mistake.”

“I’m so sorry to Bianca’s family. I’d do anything to give her back,” said Desper tearfully, addressing the courtroom audience.

Prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence, of 22.5-45 years, pointing out that, after Roberson’s death, Desper fled the scene, went to the beach, and played mini-golf, all before turning himself in.

“The defendant took everything” from Bianca, said assistant district attorney Chris Miller, “for no discernible reason.”

Wheatcraft said she didn’t give the maximum sentence to Desper because he had spared Roberson’s family from going through a long trial.

“I believe this hurts you terribly,” Wheatcraft said to Desper. “The problem is, you hurt so many people so desperately.”

Over the course of an emotional three-hour hearing, members of Roberson’s family and community memorialized her young life.

Her father, Rodney Roberson, spoke first, describing his daughter’s dreams: to go to Jacksonville University, study crime scene forensics, live a comfortable life, have six kids.

“All my dreams for Bianca were coming true. Until the day that the defendant murdered by daughter,” he said. Describing the song his daughter used to sing to him, “Dancing With My Father” by Luther Vandross, Roberson said, “Your Honor, I would love to dance with my daughter again. But I never will.”

People gather for 18-year-old Bianca Roberson’s viewing and funeral at St. Paul’s Baptist Church in West Chester, Pa., Friday, July 7, 2017. A man driving down a Pennsylvania highway shot the recent high school graduate in the head, killing her, as the two tried to merge into a single lane, authorities said. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Roberson’s mother, Michelle, also spoke, calling her daughter’s death a “hate crime” and questioned why Desper would fear a black teenager. Her voice rising and shaking, she said, “I think people should call hate by name.”

When Wheatcraft handed down the sentence, Michelle Roberson clasped hands with supporters seated on either side and shook them.

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