Catasauqua Press

Friday, September 22, 2017
PRESS PHOTO BY BERNIE O’HAREA display in memory of Darious Condash includes some balloons and the boy’s football helmet, attached to a post along Schoenersville Road, where he was struck by a car and killed Nov. 6, 2015. PRESS PHOTO BY BERNIE O’HAREA display in memory of Darious Condash includes some balloons and the boy’s football helmet, attached to a post along Schoenersville Road, where he was struck by a car and killed Nov. 6, 2015.

Judge sends Royce Atkins to jail immediately

Thursday, November 10, 2016 by bernie o’hare Special to The Press in Local News

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 Elementary School.

Darious was struck and killed by a car driven by Atkins on Schoenersville Road when the boy, in the company of an older cousin and friend, stopped to pick up a piece of candy he had dropped on the road.

The jury reached its verdict after 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 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 Nov. 6, 2015, when Darious 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 he had actually punched out two hours earlier than he said he had.

Atkins, an Eagle Scout, said 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 testified he saw nothing down the road, and continued home.

When he arrived home, he parked his car in the garage and said he 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 Darious was struck by the car, while bending over, possibly out of the view of Atkins. It also established the boy’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. An eyelash was imprinted into the hood of the car. One of his teeth left a scrape mark along the hood.

In Lupackino’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 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 had been beginning to realize he had stuck and killed this child.

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

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

Atkins testified in a monotone. He did not express any remorse or sympathy for Darious Condash or his family but insisted he would have stopped immediately if he thought he had hit someone.

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

Both McMahon and Lupackino would later say the DNA evidence, placing Darious on the hood of Atkins’ car, was probably the deciding factor in the jury’s verdict.