In wake of Lt. DeVoe's death, families continue pushing for stiffer DUI penalties
April 27, 2013 is a date that's forever etched in the minds of Paul, Elaine and Shelly Miller of Loganville.
It's the day their son and husband, Loganville Fire Chief Rodney Miller, was hit and killed by a repeat drunk driver.
Miller was closing down Interstate 83 northbound for a DUI crash just south of Glen Rock. While doing so, he was hit and killed.
"Rodney was thrown 133 feet from the point of impact," says his father Paul.
In the months and years to follow came a painstaking trial, the week after Thanksgiving, followed by a sentencing days before Christmas. Another reminder for the Miller's of their empty seat at the dinner table.
The line of duty death rocked the small town, where Miller served as Fire Chief since 2001. He was a 29 year veteran of the fire company.
"He sacrificed his life. And as a result, we're also the losers," says Elaine, Rodney's mother.
The man who hit Rodney, Matthew Diehl, is currently serving a 9-and-a-half to 19 year sentence at a state prison.
When the family heard of the line of duty death of Fire Lieutenant Dennis DeVoe of Harrisburg Fire Department, they were taken back in time to when it happened to them. DeVoe was hit and killed, allegedly by an impaired driver, while on his way to a deadly fire in Harrisburg. A three-year-old and 10-year-old also died in that fire, believed to be caused by a hoverboard, Chief Brian Enterline said.
"Your heart just sinks. You can feel the pain. It's just wide open, you feel it all over again," says Shelly, Rodney's wife of 21 years. They were together eight years prior to marriage; they were high school sweethearts.
Upon hearing of DeVoe's death, Rodney's family recalled their own tragedy but also that of another family in their hometown.
Fellow Loganville firefighter, Zac Sweitzer, was killed Thanksgiving morning of 2008. His car was hit by an underage DUI driver.
"I couldn't imagine that a similar situation could repeat itself only four years later," said Elaine of DeVoe's death.
"[I said] Oh my God, not again. So when is it going to stop?," Shelly said. "Something needs to stop it."
In the nearly four years since Rodney's death, his family now advocates for stiffer DUI penalties in Pennsylvania. Elaine and Paul advocate through PA PAID [Parents Against Impaired Driving.]
"You don't realize how poor some of our legislation is until you actually have to look at them face-to-face," Elaine says as she recalls the trial against Diehl.
"For Pennsylvania to be one of the worst states [with DUI legislation], why can't things change more quickly?," Shelly said. "There's just a lot of questions. Other states figured it out, why can't Pennsylvania?"
A 2016 Wallethub study determined which state has the strictest or weakest laws, as it relates to criminal penalties and prevention. Pennsylvania ranked 48th overall, with only 3 states ranking lower.
"We need to have those treatment courts available to the people who really want to change and improve," says Paul of repeat DUI offenders. "For those who want to ignore that and continue their bad behaviour, then we need to have laws to put the hammer down."
Right now there are no automatic felony laws for DUI in Pennsylvania.
"Our sentence is a lifetime," Elaine said. "That's just the way it is."
The Miller's encourage the community to call their respective legislatures to push for stiffer penalties against DUI offenders.