Phila. man is arrested in U. Darby hit-run death

Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael J. Chitwood (left) and Capt. George J. Rhoades Jr. Police say Marks had a suspended license and should not have been driving.
Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael J. Chitwood (left) and Capt. George J. Rhoades Jr. Police say Marks had a suspended license and should not have been driving. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 10, 2014

UPPER DARBY Police on Wednesday charged a Philadelphia man with a history of driver's license suspensions and drug abuse in the hit-and-run that killed a 69-year-old man and his dog out for a walk in Upper Darby on Sunday.

They said Ernest Marks should never have been behind the wheel.

Marks' lawyer said the man was unaware that his vehicle had hit a person, drove away because he panicked, and was "heartbroken" when he learned that Richard Patterson and his dog, Baby, had been killed.

Police were skeptical.

"To say he hit something but doesn't know what he hit is absolutely ludicrous in my mind," said Michael J. Chitwood, Upper Darby's superintendent of police.

After surrendering to police, Marks, 58, of the 5800 block of Felton Street, was charged with accident involving death or injury, failure to stop, failure to render aid, and driving with a suspended license.

Bail was set at $1 million for Marks, a slight man almost lost in the oversize blue winter jacket he was wearing at his preliminary hearing before District Judge Ann Berardocco.

According to his attorney, Debra D. Rainey, the self-employed mechanic knew he hit something on Providence Road about 5 p.m. but was afraid to stop.

Instead, Marks drove the 2000 white Acura about 5 1/2 miles along backstreets into West Philadelphia - with a front bumper dragging on the ground, a missing headlight, and a windshield obscured by a spiderweb pattern of damaged glass.

On Tuesday, Rainey said, after Marks heard reports that Patterson, who lived on Carriage Road in Upper Darby, and his 5-year-old poodle were struck and killed - their broken bodies left lying in the street as other motorists drove around them - he agreed to surrender to police.

Marks left the damaged car on the 800 block of North 47th Street, police said.

Chitwood said Marks has 11 previous license suspensions, has used eight aliases, and has a history of drug abuse. He also was wanted on a probation violation in Delaware County, Chitwood said.

"Here is an individual who should not be behind the wheel. He should not be driving, yet he is," said Chitwood.

Detectives are continuing to investigate the incident and may add charges, said Chitwood.

"In my opinion, the charges for these individuals who leave people dead or maimed on the highway - they stink," said Chitwood, saying the penalties do not usually result in long jail time.

Patterson, a retired carpenter, is survived by his wife of 48 years, Barbara, and three grown children. Members of the Patterson family declined to comment.

Rainey said her client was remorseful and "very sorry" for the Patterson family.

"He was scared to death - terrified," Rainey said. "When he realized it was an older guy, he was heartbroken."

Rainey said Marks had "struggled with drug addiction" for a while but has been clean for about 18 months, she said. He has a nonviolent criminal history, she said.

Marks makes his living doing small jobs for elderly family and friends and is known as the neighborhood mechanic, she said. He had just picked up the Acura from a friend to do some minor bodywork and was driving back to Philadelphia when the incident occurred, Rainey said.

The car's owner was unaware Marks did not have a current license, Rainey said, adding that Marks did not want anyone else to get in trouble as a result of the accident.


mschaefer@phillynews.com

610-313-8111

@MariSchaefer

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