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Norwood teen pleads not guilty in hit-and-run death

Timothy Ciriello, 19, pleaded not guilty in Stoughton District Court to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing serious injury or death.

Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Timothy Ciriello, 19, pleaded not guilty in Stoughton District Court to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing serious injury or death.

CANTON — Sandra Johnson was just down the street from her home, making her way through a cold, rainy evening with a flashlight. But as the 63-year-old stepped into the busy two-lane street just after 6 p.m. Thursday, using her flashlight to warn drivers, she was struck and killed by an oncoming car.

The collision shattered the sedan’s windshield, sending glass flying into the front seat. But police say the driver, 19-year-old Timothy Ciriello, kept going.

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His friend, 18, pleaded with him to stop, to go back to the scene at the intersection of Chapman and Wattles streets, but Ciriello drove over a railroad bridge and down a cul-de-sac, police say. The friend, Patrick Gallagher, jumped out of the car and sprinted back to the scene, where bystanders were giving Johnson CPR.

Shortly after medics arrived, Ciriello returned to the scene, and told police he was the driver. He then led police back to his vehicle, which he had parked in a condo complex a short distance away.

“He was visibly upset and crying,” a police report stated. He told police he knew he had hit something, but “didn’t know what.”

In Stoughton District Court Friday, the Norwood High School student showed little emotion as he was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal crash, a felony that carries mandatory prison time.

“It is clear this defendant hit a person and tried to avoid apprehension,’’ Assistant Norfolk District Attorney Debi Curley said in court.

Gallagher had been looking down at his cellphone at the time of the crash and asked Ciriello what had happened. He replied, “We just hit someone,” Curley said, according to police.

Ciriello drove less than half a mile before he stopped to let Gallagher out, then reversed direction before parking about a third of a mile from the accident scene.

He approached police in tears about the same time Gallagher arrived.

In court, Ciriello’s lawyer, Barry Reed, said the teenager never left the “proximity of the scene” and after his initial panic voluntarily identified himself to police.

“He was inconsolable” when he learned Johnson had died, Reed said. “He’s very remorseful.”

“He’s a 19-year-old boy, your honor,” he added.

Looking on, Ciriello’s mother fought back tears. She and Ciriello’s father left the courthouse without comment.

Ciriello pleaded not guilty and was ordered held on $10,000 bail. His driver’s license was revoked.

His license had been suspended from late March until Aug. 30 for failing to address a traffic violation in New Hampshire, according to the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles. He also has an outstanding warrant from Clinton for allegedly driving with a suspended license and possession of alcohol as a minor, Curley said.

He was found to be at fault in an accident in Stoughton in May 2012.

A witness to Thursday’s accident told police Johnson made a “bold move” crossing the street and seemed to be trying to halt traffic with her flashlight. The witness, a neighbor of Johnson’s, said it appeared that Ciriello never saw Johnson.

A second witness said that Johnson crossed the road as if she expected oncoming traffic to stop. She said that Ciriello did not appear to be traveling faster than other cars.

There was no crosswalk at the scene of the accident.

Investigators are determining whether speed or texting played a role in the crash. Johnson was apparently heading home at the time of the crash.

Johnson was unresponsive at the scene and was pronounced dead at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Neighbors of Johnson recalled her as a sweet, private woman and said they were deeply saddened by her death.

“It’s horrific,” said Jodi Moore, a neighbor on Chapman Street. “She was very kind. A lovely person.”

Johnson lived alone and generally kept to herself, Moore said. But they came to know each other and often walked their dogs together. She had family in Connecticut, she said.

“It’s just a tragedy.”

Other neighbors said Johnson was extremely devoted to her rescue dog and was often seen walking him through the neighborhood.

“She really loved that dog,” said Mike Chin, 27, a neighbor.

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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