Drunk Driver Kills Student, Mother

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

It's been a gut-wrenching day for these students at Lansing Catholic High School.

Gathered in prayer, they all are searching for some kind of reason why their friend, 17-year-old Major Washington, was taken from them.

"It's so hard for me to grasp, he's gone and he was so young," says classmate Tsha Archer.

"When it hit us, it hit us hard. It's been a really rough day," echoes classmate Molly Piecuch.

Police say Washington and his mother, 46-year-old Sylvia Porter, were killed Monday night when a truck driven by 27-year-old Daniel Burwell collided with their car on Pennsylvania and Cavanaugh.

Now, the close-knit school is left without the bubbly junior football player. Students gathered Tuesday to share their memories with us.

"Whenever I think of him, I think of his smile, and it makes me smile," says Melissa LeBlanc.

"He was one of the most well-known kids in school," says good friend Sam Reedy.

"Things like this aren't supposed to happen," says Principal Tom Maloney.

Maloney says Washington had friends "in every corner of the school," and his mother was always involved.

"Sylvia was such a strong, loving mother," Maloney says.

Burwell has been charged with eight criminal counts, including two counts of 2nd degree murder and two counts of driving while intoxicated causing death. He's also been charged with two counts of failing to stop at a scene resulting in death, because police say he fled the scene immediately.

Lt. Noel Garcia says police too are having a hard time.

"It was heartbreaking," he says. "It was a heartbreaking incident for everyone."

Washington was an only child; his father is now left without son and wife.

And this school, left without their classmate, left grappling with his death.

"He was gone so quickly," classmate Archer says. "Don't take any day for granted."

Burwell is being held on $250,000 bond and his pre-trial is set for May 1 at 2 p.m. in front of Judge Cherry.


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  • by Anonymous Location: Lansing on Jun 15, 2009 at 09:39 AM
    I am just so thankful that Burwell got what he deserved. For crying out loud My friend and his mother were just returning a video. I was talking to Major Jr. just 5 minutes before the accident. I am not going to sit here and talk about Burwell, who I did not know, but I am just thankful that he is finally going to get what he deserves, and hopefully, he will learn his lesson this time since this is not his first offence. God Bless Mr. Major Washtington Sr. and R.I.P Mrs. Sylvia & Major Jr we love you and miss you terribly.
  • by Lisa Location: Mason, MI on May 23, 2009 at 05:28 PM
    Too bad your disgusted about people calling Dan Burwell white trash and scum, not only is he both of these, he is also a coward, who ran from the scene!! It was NO mistake...his first time may have been a mistake, but after he lost his license, him driving drunk again, was nothing more than a blatant disregard for everyone but himself!! He deserves to be charged with murder....maybe he will finally sober up in prison. The Washington family is very hurt, Dan deserves to hurt and be miserable as well....Only a coward would run from the scene of a horrific crash like this.......He is an awful person, yes he still has family....unlike the Washington's......I am disgusted that people like you, would stick up for a loser like him!!!!
  • by Annonymous Location: Jackson on May 1, 2009 at 01:13 AM
    I am disgusted with the fact that people would sit there and call Dan Burwell white trash and call him scum. He made a terrible mistake, everyone makes them, nobody is perfect. I personally know Dan and he is far from trash. I know it is terrible that these people died. I think Dan made a bad choice. You can't point the finger at someone and just call them names when you don't know them. He is a good guy and he taught me how to trim tree and he was an excellent tree trimmer. He is a fun loving guy who came off as shy to me. I know he made mistakes but give the guy a little slack he isn't a evil person who just tries to go around hurting people. He is a friend and he is part of a family. Tell me that you don't know at least one person that you care about that has drank and drove. They could have hurt someone, but does that mean that they are evil or murders? Are you saying that everytime someone drives drunk they should be charged with attempted murder?
  • by Annonymous Location: Onondaga on May 1, 2009 at 12:52 AM
    I understand that people are upset about the death of Sylvia and Major. It is a tragedy and I feel for thier friends and family, but charging Dan with second degree murder wont bring these people back. To charge him with second degree murder is wrong. Someone who commits second degree murder plans on killing a person they have a thought of killing a person and then act on it. Dan did not plan on murdering anybody. When he got in his car to drive he did not think he would hurt anybody. No he had no business driving, he made a bad decision, he shouldn't have gotten behind the wheel. He does deserve to go to prison, but on charges of involuntary manslaughter. He will still do years in prison, this will still have a major impact on his life too. He made a terrible mistake in his life and he is going to have to live with that for the rest of his life. Dan is as much of person as you and I. Over charging someone to set an example, is that right? How would you feel if it was someone you knew?
  • by Jessie Location: Lansing, Michigan on Apr 27, 2009 at 04:37 PM
    Hello All! No matter how one dies GOD does not take one home until it is his day and hour. Yes it is a tragic the way and how quickly death came. GOD take the young like the old. Charge Dan with murder if it will make you feel better. Where is the forgiveness? Punish him to the max if you choose. Vengence is mine said the lord. It would not had made a bit of difference in there being here if the drunk had not crossed their path. Their guardian angels would have saved them if it was not their time to go home. They would have just went another way. tdoes bad things happen to good people? Who knows. But, when it is your time to go you are going and can not hide. Just as sure as the hairs on your head is numbered so are your days. If it was not their time they would not be gone. People lay up and suffer for years and can not move and want to die. Why? Because it is not their time. Being Catholic I am quite sure the family realise this. You are allborn to die.
  • by Cyndi Location: Eaton Rapids on Apr 24, 2009 at 10:57 AM
    I have worked with Mr. Washington Sr. for many, many years. He is a kind hearted man, compassionate, loving, loyal. He goes the extra mile for his co-workers. He is very family orientated and his family meant everything to him. Major Washington, Sr. also loves his, God. And he believes strongly, in God. He knows that with God, you can handle and master, all things. I pray for Major Washington, Sr, that God, is comforting him and keeping him strong, during that terrible loss. Let's us all, do a "prayer" for Major Washington, Sr, and his deceased loved ones. This would mean everything to Major Washington, Sr. Let the courts handle the driver of the car, come what may. Prayers for Major Washington, Sr. is what is most important, now.
  • by Matt Location: East Lansing on Apr 23, 2009 at 03:45 PM
    I beg our law enforcement to prosecute Dan to the full extent of the law. This man MURDERED two innocent people with his car and his stupid choices (which have been repetitive!) caused this. Send him away for life.
  • by Annonymous Location: Lansing on Apr 23, 2009 at 09:44 AM
    YES DAN SHOULD BE TRIED WITH MURDER!!! Of course I understand that everybody makes mistakes, and I also understand that he didnt mean to do what he did. However, his license was revoked, he never should have been driving. Also he has driven drunk before and was caught, he should have learned the first time he was caught about his mistake. And now the Father of this family lost his entire immediate family to one accident from a stupid irresponsible drunk driver who never should have even had a car. I sure do hope that Mr. Washington has other family out there to help him cope with the situation at hand.
  • by corey Location: lansing on Apr 23, 2009 at 09:11 AM
    throw the book at carless drivers...last year a 3 yr old in our fam was killed in an accident on mlk,and the girl that caused it,is pretty much getting away scottfree!!!!!! horrible situation.i feel for the fam
  • by Stella Location: Lansing on Apr 23, 2009 at 06:59 AM
    The bars staying open until 4 am have nothing to do with this case. It was only around 9:30 pm when this happened.
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