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The Boston Globe

Metro

Dorchester woman charged with fatal South End hit-and-run

A 21-year-old Dorchester woman was charged Friday with fatally running over a pedestrian near the South End/Roxbury line before fleeing the scene, later telling police she “panicked.”

Police say Christina Martinez struck the woman as she crossed near the intersection of Northampton and Washington streets around 9 Thursday night, then sped away, leaving the woman in the middle of the road.

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Witnesses provided the make and license plate of the car, leading police to her apartment, prosecutors said.

When she answered the door, she said “I know why you’re here. I panicked,” assistant district attorney Jennifer O’Keefe said at Martinez’s arraignment in Roxbury District Court. Parked out front, her car had a shattered windshield and other damage, O’Keefe said.

Relatives who appeared in court identified the victim as Vielisha Pullum, 63, a lifelong Boston resident who lived near the scene of the accident. She was on her way home from the store when she was hit, they said.

“She will be greatly missed,” said Tanaysha Howell, Pullum’s niece. “She was a wonderful woman. This is very hard.”

Another niece said she was devastated over her aunt’s death, and lashed out at Martinez for allegedly fleeing the scene.

“When you hit a human being, you need to stop and see if she’s OK,” she said outside the courthouse. “You have to have some empathy in your heart.”

Pullum was deeply devoted to her family, which included a dozen siblings and a huge extended family, the nieces said. She called her son every night, and when she didn’t call Thursday, the family knew something was wrong.

“She was loved,” Howell said.

In court, the nieces and two other companions fought back tears as they waited for the arraignment. When one of the women began to cry, the women by her side pulled her close and patted her head.

A lawyer for Martinez, Scott Gediman, said she is “truly, truly sorry” about the woman’s death.

“Ms. Martinez and her entire family send their heartfelt condolences and sympathies,” he said. “This was a tragic and unfortunate accident.” Gediman said she left the scene because she was “very afraid.”

Gediman said Martinez is studying child development at Urban College of Boston and works full time at a day-care center.

Martinez is charged with motor vehicle homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. She was also cited for driving without her glasses.

She had no prior driving infractions. Martinez was ordered held on $1,000 bail and told not to drive if she was released.

Pullum was not walking in a crosswalk, authorities said. Pullum was taken to nearby Boston Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

Derek Watt was riding with a friend down Washington Street when he saw the pedestrian get hit. He said the car struck Pullum directly, sending her onto the hood before crashing to the pavement, then sped off.

“It just kept going,” said Watt, 33.

Watt said the driver made no apparent effort to stop before hitting the woman.

Watt said he told his friend to pull over and jumped out of the car in time to catch the license plate. Replaying the plate over and over in his head, he called 911.

“I just ran it through my head,” he said. “You’re going to forget things in a stressful situation.”

The entire accident occurred in a matter of seconds, he said.

As police arrived, a crowd gathered at the scene, backing up traffic. A driver of a Mercedes became impatient at the delay, Watt said, and swerved around the line of cars, almost hitting the woman again.

John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.

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