In Fairfax, anguish over death of teen, and driver who hit him

By Theresa Vargas
Friday, October 1, 2010

No one knows exactly why 15-year-old Johnny "Bo" Rupp ended up wandering in and out of traffic on a poorly lit road half a mile from his Centreville home Saturday night. What neighbors and friends know, if vaguely, is what led up to that moment: a concert at Jiffy Lube Live, drinking, an encounter with his parents.

What happened next on Pleasant Valley Road is clear: Bo Rupp was hit by a car driven by a neighbor as another neighbor, who had just swerved to avoid the teenager, watched.

On a neighborhood e-mail list usually reserved for finding teenagers jobs, or, as was the case recently, warning residents of a wild beaver attack, the news initially went out as a traffic alert:

September 25, 8:49 p.m. Subject: Pedestrian hit on PVR at JMRC. 2 other cars involved in accident. Channel 7 here (for some reason). Helicopter heading to hospital.

And then for hours on the e-mail list: silence. Beth Tweddle, who runs the list, couldn't bring herself to type anything more that night as the details emerged, each adding a painful layer to an event that has left neighbors holding on to one another so as not to fall apart.

The next e-mail went out at 11:17 the next night, after Tweddle sat at her keyboard for more than half an hour agonizing over what to type.

Subject: Passed along with incredible anguish as a parent, friend and neighbor asking for your prayers for the Rupp Family.

At 1:30 p.m. Friday, a funeral will be held at Centreville United Methodist Church for Rupp, a skilled athlete with an easy, wide smile. But the mourning for him and sympathy for the driver who hit him have neighbors showing up, dinner in hand, at the homes of both families.

"This is so raw, and people are so tragically involved whether they knew the people or not," said Tweddle, a mother of three. "It could have been any one of us driving the car that night. . . . The 'what-ifs' and 'onlys' are the things that no one can get out of their minds."

Fairfax County police said they do not expect to charge the man who struck Rupp. They identified him only as a 44-year-old in a 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser. A preliminary investigation determined that the teenager was running in and out of traffic on Pleasant Valley Road near Smithhaven Place and was sitting in the street when he was hit.

Police said the Toyota driver was traveling north on Pleasant Valley at 8:11 p.m. when the motorist in front of him made an abrupt U-turn and stopped. Police said the Toyota driver did not see Rupp until after he hit him and stopped his vehicle.

Rupp was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital and died almost a day later.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company