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'I was scared to death,' father of Scout recalls of his son's fatal crash

The father of 12-year-old Andrew McMorris, overcome with despair, testified Thursday that he was "scared to death" as he saw his son lay unconscious on the shoulder of a Manorville road only moments after being struck by a Holbrook motorist accused of driving drunk. (Credit: James Carbone)

The 12-year-old Boy Scout lay unconscious and bleeding on the side of a Manorville road, moments after being struck by a Holbrook man now accused of driving drunk.

The boy's father, John McMorris, recalled hearing a loud crash, and rushing over, terrified at what he might find.

"I ran as fast as I could and I saw a boy laying on the ground," McMorris testified in a Riverhead courtroom, 14 months after the death of his son, Andrew, his voice slowly rising and tears pouring down.

Judge Fernando Camacho asked McMorris if he needed time to compose himself Thursday but the grief-stricken father continued. 

"I can do this," McMorris said, as he patted his eyes and went back to the crash scene in his mind. "I was scared to death and I realized it was my son."

McMorris, a middle school guidance counselor, gave deeply emotional testimony for just over an hour at the trial of Thomas Murphy.

He described the scene on Sept. 30, 2018, after his seventh-grade son and three other Boy Scouts were struck by a white Mercedes SUV driven by Murphy, 60. Andrew never regained consciousness and died from his injuries the next morning.

McMorris, an assistant Scout leader who had joined the boys on the 20-mile morning hike, told a hushed courtroom that Andrew was prone on a grassy area next to the shoulder, immobile but with a pulse. The boy's head and nose were bleeding and both his legs were clearly broken, McMorris said.

McMorris' friends and family openly sobbed during the powerful testimony. As they have throughout the trial, most wore red in solidarity with the family.

At least five members of the jury sobbed or wiped their eyes. One juror asked a court officer for a box of tissues while a female member of Murphy's family appeared to be crying. The defendant did not appear to publicly react to the testimony.

McMorris recalled that, as he knelt by his son, he could hear the voice of the man who had struck his youngest child.

"As I was taking care of my son dying before me, [Mr. Murphy] yelled 'Oh my God. Oh my God. Are they OK? Are they OK? They’re going to be OK.They’re going to be OK," McMorris testified.

McMorris shouted back to Murphy: "No, they are not going to be OK."

Murphy's words, he said, were "slurred" and "mushmouthed. He seemed to be all over the place."

Prosecutors contend Murphy's SUV crossed over a white fog line and into Scouts from Troop 161 after he spent the morning drinking vodka at the Swan Lake Golf Course in Manorville. 

Murphy has pleaded not guilty to a 16-count indictment charging him with aggravated vehicular homicide, assault and driving while intoxicated. If convicted of the top charges, he faces 8 1/2 to 25 years in prison.

Murphy served as the prosecution's final witness before the state rested its case. The defense will begin presenting its case Monday. The case could go to the jury late next week.

Steve Politi, Murphy's defense attorney, contends his client was not drunk and that the "poorly supervised" Scouts wandered onto the roadway where they were stuck by the Murphy's vehicle.

But McMorris said that he "never" saw any of the Scouts cross into the travel lanes and that the boys stayed on the road's shoulder far from traffic.

Politi briefly cross-examined McMorris but the inquiry had a somber, measured tone — a departure from the attorney's often blustery questioning of other witnesses.

"I am really sorry you have to be here and I am really sorry for what happened to your son," Politi told McMorris.

McMorris described Andrew as a talented young man with a passion for aviation and a gift for music. He ran cross country, played the piano, was a voracious painter and dreamed of becoming a pilot. Shortly before his death Andrew helped pilot a small Cessna plane on a flight from Islip to Connecticut.

But Andrew's unfulfilled future was instead replaced with a series of final events in the young boy's life. 

Andrew's last photo: smiling broadly in front of the Pine Barren Trails Center.

His final meal: a turkey hero with mayo from Subway.

And his final breath, taken at 4:07 a.m. on Oct. 1 at Stony Brook University Hospital.

On Tuesday McMorris said he returned to the crash scene one last time.

"I just wanted to see it again," his voice trailing off.

Correction: The location where Andrew McMorris was found, the sport he played and his final meal were incorrect in a previous version of this story.

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