A Chester County courtroom was moved to tears Thursday as the parents of a teenage girl who was murdered in a road rage shooting last year demanded maximum prison time for the man who ended her life.
David Desper will serve at least 20 years in a Pennsylvania prison for the murder of 18-year-old Bianca Roberson. Common Pleas Judge Ann Marie Wheatcraft sentenced the 28-year-old to a maximum of 40 years, but he will be eligible for parole in 2038.
Desper, of Trainer, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in September to shooting the college-bound teen in the head as they jockeyed for position along Route 100 in June 2017. Roberson was killed instantly. Her car swerved off the highway and into the woods as Desper fled. He went to a friend's house in Delaware and hid for several days before turning himself in.
Chester County Assistant District Attorney Chris Miller noted that during Desper's time hiding, he played mini golf and ate pancakes.
"What kind of man shoots a little girl and then eats pancakes?" Miller asked. "Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking. What did the defendant do? He fled."
At first, Roberson's family thought she died in a tragic accident, but days later they learned it was a bullet that claimed the teen's life.
Her parents, Rodney and Michelle Roberson, delivered heartbreaking statements to the court Thursday morning, saying dreams for their daughter's future were ripped apart the day she died.
"I hate you," Michelle Roberson said to Desper.
The judge and courtroom staff wiped away tears as she went on, recounting happy moments with her daughter that she will never experience again.
"All I have left of Bianca is my memories," Rodney Roberson said in a separate statement.
"My questions for the defendant are simple: Why in God’s name did you shoot my daughter? Because she was young? Because she was black? Because she was a girl? Because you wanted to go first on the road? Because you had a bad day?"
Desper looked down and cried as Roberson's parents spoke.
Bianca's grandmother, family friends and a school administrator also delivered statements. Emotions ran so high in the courtroom that, at one point, the judge called a short recess.
After the break, Desper addressed the courtroom with his hands shackled as he choked back tears. He sobbed while attempting to apologize to the Roberson family. They just shook their heads. Roberson’s mother abruptly left while he spoke.
"I am so sorry," Desper said. "I would do anything to take it back."
Earlier, family and friends described the convicted murderer as a "gentle giant" who was kind and always willing to help. His mother, Wendy Desper, said that she wanted to speak with Roberson’s mother "mom to mom."
"She’s not a mom today because of what my son did," Wendy Desper said, sobbing and clutching a tissue.
But the judge, who also cried while delivering her own statement, said that Desper could never take back what he did.
"I don’t believe you were afraid," Judge Wheatcraft said to Desper. "I believe it was anger."
Here's Rodney Roberson's full victim impact statement:
Dear Judge Wheatcraft,
My name is Rodney Roberson. I am, and forever will be, the father of Bianca Roberson.
Everybody thinks I am a tough guy. I was raised in West Philadelphia. I enlisted in the United States Army, served honorably, then enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, and served honorably again. When I finished my service with the Marines, I returned to West Philly, but I quickly saw that there was nothing but trouble there. I then joined the United States Merchant Marines, where I have worked for the last 28 years. We move big ships around the country and world. My work is hard, but it is honest work. So maybe I am a tough guy.
But not when it came to Bianca. She was my youngest child, my baby. She always could make me smile and make life a little brighter.
Let me tell you about my little girl. Bianca was a child who was always happy, and she brought that joy to everyone around her. With adults, she was shy and respectful. With her friends, she was kind, gentle, and funny. To me, she was the smartest and most beautiful young woman in the world.
When you are a father, you laugh at your sons, but you worry about your daughters. Who will be there to protect them when you are not around? Will they always be safe? What can you do to make sure they don’t get hurt? Nothing hurts a dad more than his daughter’s tears.
Bianca was hard-working and generous. She got a job at the McDonald’s on Gay Street in West Chester. I would go there to eat just to see her working, proud that she had a job. She would whisper to me, “Dad, you have to go home!” But I would just sit and watch her working, smiling at my little girl. Then, when she got her first paycheck, she insisted on taking me out to dinner, just to say thank you for being her father. I told her that I would pay, but she refused, her quiet way of telling me she loved me and that she was growing up.
My wife and I decided to raise Bianca in Chester County because it was safe. We didn’t want to risk the violence of West Philadelphia. We wanted her to grow up around nice people in a nice place.
We wanted everything for Bianca. I wanted her to go to college, something I never got to do. She was going to Jacksonville University on a scholarship, ready to study crime scene forensics. I wanted her to graduate and get a good job, working in an office and getting paid good money without breaking her back working on the docks. I wanted her to fall in love, get married, and then have kids. She always told me that she was going to have six kids -- three boys and three girls. I wanted to live long enough to spoil my grandchildren.
All my dreams for Bianca were coming true. Until the day that the defendant murdered by daughter.
My questions for the defendant are simple. Why in God’s name did you shoot my daughter? Because she was young? Because she was black? Because she was a girl? Because you wanted to go first on the road? Because you had a bad day?
How do you think your family would feel if somebody had murdered you like you murdered my daughter?
All I have left of Bianca is my memories. She had a special song that she said was her song just for me – “Dancing With My Father” by Luther Vandross. It is a song about a child whose father died, and about how that child is praying for one more dance with her father. I always teased her that it was such a sad song and I planned on living forever anyway. Here is a little bit of the song:
Back when I was a child
Before life removed all the innocence
My father would lift me high
And dance with my mother and me
Spin me around ‘till I fell asleep
Then up the stairs he would carry me
And I knew for sure
I was loved
If I could get another chance
Another dance with him
I’d play a song that would never ever end
How I’d love love love
To dance with my father again
Your Honor, I would love to dance with my daughter again. But I never will.