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Woman, 19, killed after robbery suspect drives wrong way on highway in Saugus and slams into car, police say

Ashley Forward.Family photo

A 19-year-old woman was killed Wednesday morning when a robbery suspect speeding the wrong way down Route 107 in Saugus crashed into her vehicle in a head-on collision, police said.

Saugus police said in a statement that the episode unfolded at 10:49 a.m., when officers were called to a 7-Eleven store at 386 Lincoln Ave. for a report of an unarmed robbery.

An officer spotted the suspect’s vehicle on Ballard Street, the statement said, but the man, later identified as William Leger, 35, of Somerville, refused to stop, leading police on a “brief pursuit” that was called off as soon as he turned onto Route 107, a divided highway, and began traveling south in the northbound lanes.

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Leger drove the wrong way for about a half-mile before crashing into a vehicle driven by the 19-year-old victim, who was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Leger, police said, was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. “Charges against him are currently being sought by Massachusetts State Police,” the statement said.

No charges had been announced late Wednesday night.

“Clearly, he will face charges commensurate with the severity of his criminal actions, including causing the death of another person,” State Police spokesman David Procopio said in an e-mail. “Ultimately the District Attorney will determine the appropriate charges based on the facts and the law.”

The victim’s family identified her as Ashley Forward, a student at Emmanuel College in Boston.

“She was just a good person. ... She was very helpful,” her grandmother, Patricia Luongo said by telephone from her daughter’s home in Lynn. “She wanted to be a politician, but then [because of the coronavirus pandemic] she decided she wanted to be a nurse.”

Forward had just completed her first year in Emanuel College‘s nursing program, Sister Janet Eisner, the Catholic liberal arts college’s president, said in an e-mail to the campus community.

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“I ask all of you to join with me in praying for Ashley’s family in this most difficult hour,” Eisner wrote.

Luongo said her granddaughter was an athlete who coached softball and helped win a cheerleading competition in Florida.

“She was involved with everything. She was just unbelievable,” she said.

Forward was coming to see Luongo when the crash occurred, and the grandmother became concerned when the teen was late arriving.

Luongo said State Police came to her home around noon and notified her of her granddaughter’s death. She then called her daughter, Michelle Luongo, who is an MBTA employee and was at work in Charlestown.

Michelle Luongo attended a candlelit vigil for her daughter on Wednesday night, her mother said.

Forward also had a 20-year-old brother and a 10-year-old sister, her grandmother said.

“Her brother is really beside himself,” she said. “He’s been taking it so hard.”

A person was killed in a two-vehicle crash on Route 107 in Saugus.7News
A person was killed in a two-vehicle crash on Route 107 in Saugus on Wednesday morning.7News
7News
Video shows robbery suspect turning wrong way onto Route 107 in Saugus.
Footage shows a robbery suspect turning the wrong way onto Route 107 in Saugus, shortly before he crashed head-on into another car, killing a 19-year-old woman. (Video courtesy of Armen Missakiane)


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.