Man killed in hit-and-run crash was retired art teacher who taught at Stoneham High School

Phocian Fitts.
Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Phocian Fitts at his arraignment Thursday.

A South End man who spent 40 years as an arts teacher at Stoneham High School was identified as the person killed in a hit-and-run crash in Allston as the alleged driver was arraigned on a motor vehicle homicide charge Thursday.

Theodore J. Schwalb, 80, was listed in a Boston police report as the victim of the crash, which happened around 12:50 p.m. Wednesday on Commonwealth Avenue near the Griggs Street Station on the MBTA’s Green Line.

Schwalb, who lived on West Springfield Street for many years and who drove a convertible Mercedes Benz with a “TEDTED” vanity plate, was rushed to St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, where he was pronounced dead, according to the police report filed in Brighton Municipal Court.


The alleged driver, Phocian Fitts, pleaded not guilty in Brighton Municipal Court to leaving the scene of a fatal crash and motor vehicle homicide. Judge Myong Joun set bail at $10,000 cash. If the 23-year-old Fitts posts bail, he will have to wear a GPS-locating device.

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He was also ordered not to drive without a valid license. His right to drive was suspended by the Registry of Motor Vehicles following the crash on the grounds that he is an “immediate threat” to public safety if he gets back behind the wheel.

Early Thursday afternoon, several of Schwalb’s relatives gathered at his brownstone apartment in the South End, still reeling from the news of his death.

“He was a very beloved person,” said Schwalb’s younger sister, Brenda Star. “He had so many friends.”

She declined to comment further, as did other family members.


Schwalb worked as an arts teacher at Stoneham High School for some 40 years before retiring in 2000, said Donna Cargill, a former colleague and current principal of the school. She said Schwalb “inspired many of them to be better people and artists.”

Cargill recalled her former colleague with fondness in a telephone interview.

“He was a funny guy who embraced life,’’ she said. “He was a character.”

Schwalb was also someone who appreciated the handiwork of a skilled chef, she said.

“He was definitely a foodie,’’ she said. “He enjoyed good friends and good food.”


When Fitts was arraigned Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Emily Hamrock said dashcam video evidence was used to identify the vehicle involved in the fatal collision as a 2019 black Jeep Cherokee registered to Fitts’s mother.

The Schwalb family
Ted Schwalb, 80, was struck and killed while crossing Commonwealth Avenue on Wednesday.

Authorities said “video evidence” showed Fitts was the driver at the time of the crash, the police report stated.

“The suspect motor vehicle appeared to accelerate towards the location of the incident at a speed greater than reasonable,’’ police wrote.

Robert Correy was one of the witnesses who saw the collision. Correy said he saw the victim, who was near Starbucks, start to walk across the street, and then “he started to jog.” At that point, he was struck by the SUV, which sent him 6 to 8 feet in the air, he said. The driver “never slowed down,” he said.

When police went to the family home at Fidelis Way in Brighton on Wednesday, the mother acknowledged the car was hers, said it was parked nearby, and that her son was the last person to drive it.

She told the officers that her son was nervous because he told her he “hit something” and said he was upstairs.

Police noted that the Jeep Cherokee’s passenger side front fender and windshield were damaged, and seized the vehicle so it could be processed and held as evidence.

Police brought Fitts first to the Brighton police station, then to the homicide unit at police headquarters. While at headquarters, Fitts asked a detective whether he was being questioned “cause I left,’’ police wrote in the report.

At that point, police told Fitts that an attorney had contacted them on his behalf and instructed him not to speak with police, and he was released, according to police.

But once released by police, Fitts ended up talking to Boston 25 News. In the televised interview, he acknowledged what happened and said that he did not intend to hit the pedestrian.

“People hit and run people all the time,” Fitts told Boston 25 News. “It just happened to be an unfortunate situation where I was driving. I don’t take drugs. I wasn’t intoxicated.”

Fitts also told the station that he was listening to music and “driving too quick” in the moments leading up to the accident. Fitts said he had a green light and beeped his horn at the man crossing the street.

“As the guy was walking, the light is green, I’m driving and pressing the horn, pressing the horn, ‘beep beep beep beep’ — it was either I was going to die and crash into a pole when it came down to it,” Fitts said.

“So when it came down to it, man, accidents happen, man.”

After investigators became aware of the televised interview in which Fitts admitted his role in the fatal crash, police placed Fitts under arrest.

In 2016, Fitts pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from his attack on a US Postal Service worker, the Globe has reported. The worker told investigators he kicked at an unleashed dog owned by Fitts’s mother in self-defense. Fitts admitted to retaliating against the mailman and was sentenced to time served.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.John R. Ellement can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.