Coraopolis woman gets 3 to 6 years in prison for DUI crash that killed pedestrian

Jeremia Scales always wanted to be the first, texting or calling his family at the stroke of midnight to wish them a happy birthday or happy Mother’s Day.

The 25-year-old from West Mifflin loved music. He could play piano, drums, trumpet, harmonica and guitar, and served as assistant director of youth music at his church.

In 2021, Scales had dreams of trying out for “The Voice.”

Instead, he was struck by a car and killed as he walked to a neighborhood store in the middle of the afternoon.

On Tuesday, the woman who hit him was ordered to serve 3 to 6 years in prison for homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence.

At an emotional sentencing hearing, Scales’ mother, Sofiya Mobley, told the court that no sentence would be adequate.

“When you lose your child, you lose an entire lifetime of dreams and desires — both yours and theirs,” she said. “It’s not just every day that’s a struggle. It’s every moment.”

Darian Kopps, 28, of Coraopolis, pleaded guilty on Sept. 5 before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski.

As part of the plea agreement, Kopps also will serve four years of probation following her release from prison and pay $6,200 in fines.

A criminal complaint filed in the case said police were called to Brierly Lane in West Mifflin around 5 p.m. on July 16, 2021, after receiving reports that a pedestrian had been struck by a car.

Scales, his family said, had left his house — just four doors away from where he was hit— a few minutes earlier, carrying his sister’s rainbow Mickey Mouse umbrella, to walk to a nearby store.

That’s when, police said, Kopps struck him as she drove an SUV westbound. When police arrived, they said the car had heavy damage to the passenger-side windshield, hood and grill.

Scales was taken to UPMC Mercy, where he died two days later.

Kopps’ 2-year-old child was in the vehicle at the time of the crash, police said. They smelled marijuana in the car and saw an open 24-ounce beer can.

Kopps told police that it had been raining, and she had her windshield wipers on high. Kopps said that just before the crash, she noticed an umbrella on the passenger side of the roadway, glanced at the GPS on her phone and felt a thump.

She told police she immediately turned around in the next driveway and returned to the scene where she found someone already tending to Scales.

Kopps’ speech was slurred, and she was having trouble maintaining her balance, police said in the criminal complaint. They also learned she had been driving on a suspended license and had no car insurance.

Her blood-alcohol level was 0.121%, and she tested positive for cocaine and marijuana.

At Tuesday’s hearing, defense attorney Brandon Herring told Sasinoski that his client suffered significant abuse as a child.

Kopps apologized to Scales’ family, saying she is full of sorrow and regret.

“Every day it sickens me I’m responsible for children not having their father,” she said. “There isn’t any excuse for what I did. My carelessness took a life.”

As Kopps spoke to the court, at least two of Scales’ relatives had to leave the courtroom.

When they returned, they told the judge how Jeremia’s death has impacted them.

His mother spoke first, and said that she visits her son at the cemetery every day.

“My family is no longer complete,” Mobley said. “My baby boy is gone.”

The circumstances of his death were made worse, Mobley said, because he was killed just four doors away from their home.

“I can’t even walk my dog anymore,” she said.

Mobley has recordings of her son singing, and she told Sasinoski she shares them with anyone who will listen to keep his memory alive. After the hearing, she played a video of him singing for the victim advocate on the case.

Scales’ sister, Sharisa Scales, couldn’t attend the sentencing hearing because she is away for active-duty military service.

When her brother was killed, Sharisa wrote in her victim-impact statement, she was overseas caring for patients.

She never made it home to see him.

“It’s not merely an accident, but choices she made to take a life,” Sharisa wrote.

Jeremia’s oldest sister, Sofiya Mozley, told the court that before he died, she bought a vegan cookbook to make her brother cupcakes — he was lactose intolerant — but never got the chance. And she said her brother won’t get a chance to attend her wedding or be an uncle to the children she hopes to have someday.

Mozley told the court that her grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s’s disease, was home the day Scales was killed. She knew her grandson had gone out that day to go to the store.

For a long time afterward, their grandmother would repeatedly ask, “Is Jeremia back from the store yet?” his sister said.

Shiphra Scales, Jeremia’s youngest sister, said he was the most talented person she knew — in music, sports and art.

Their bedrooms were across from each other, and every morning growing up, they raced each other to the bathroom. They raced to the television in the family room and to the fridge, too, she said.

Her brother, Shiphra said, played basketball with her any time she asked and encouraged her in things she thought no one else would notice.

Jeremia’s death has shaken her faith, she said.

“Imagine losing your faith in God because a careless person was able to take your brother’s life.”

Paula Reed Ward is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paula by email at or via Twitter .

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