Metro

Driver who allegedly ran over Cambridge woman called 911, drove away, prosecutors say

CAMBRIDGE — Eighty-year-old Romelia Gallardo was a sunny presence in her Cambridge apartment building, known for an active lifestyle of neighborhood walks, shopping trips, and daily coffee runs to Dunkin’ Donuts.

On Friday, her grieving family watched in Cambridge District Court as Ashley A. Monturio, 41, was arraigned for allegedly driving over Gallardo in the parking lot of Gallardo’s building and fleeing the scene of the deadly crash.

Assistant Middlesex District Attorney Maren Schrader said Monturio, of Pembroke, accelerated over Gallardo “as if going up over a speed bump.” She drove around the corner, and then returned to the scene. After calling 911, she allegedly then drove away.

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Monturio told the dispatcher that a woman was on the ground and that she couldn’t remain at the scene because she had a job interview, Schrader said. Video surveillance captured Monturio’s license plate. She turned herself in Thursday night, prosecutors say.

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On Friday, a not-guilty plea was entered on Monturio’s behalf to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing the death of Gallardo. She was released without bail.

Prosecutors said she had no prior criminal record, but that was small comfort to Gallardo’s grandson, Jose Mazariegos, who insisted that a cash bail should have been set.

“I don’t know why she’s just been released, just like that,” Mazariegos said. “How are you just going to leave somebody in the [expletive] floor dead?” Telling reporters that “there’s no justice,” he said, “So I can just run over somebody right now, call the police, and just leave.”

Family and friends of Romelia Gallardo left the courthouse at Cambridge District Court.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Family and friends of Romelia Gallardo left the courthouse at Cambridge District Court.

Monturio left court without commenting.

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Her lawyer, Patrick Reddington, said, “We are deeply saddened and very apologetic for the loss of the family. Other than that, we have to let justice play out. . . . It’s a very upsetting situation, and we have to let justice play its course.”

During the brief arraignment, Schrader said the crash occurred in the parking lot of the L.B. Johnson Apartments complex at 150 Erie St., a residence for elderly tenants in Cambridgeport. Gallardo lived in the building.

Schrader said video surveillance captured Gallardo walking by the passenger side of Monturio’s white Infiniti SUV around noon Thursday. The vehicle’s rear brake lights were illuminated.

Gallardo continued walking and bent down to retrieve something, at which time Monturio accelerated and drove over her, leaving Gallardo with “severe damage to her head and neck,” Schrader said.

Monturio, Schrader said, drove around the corner and then returned to the crash scene. She stood over Gallardo and then walked away, according to Schrader, who said Monturio later told a 911 dispatcher that “she believes a woman in a walker may have fallen down.”

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The prosecutor said Monturio claimed to not know what happened. Witnesses said she returned to her SUV and drove away at the sound of approaching sirens.

Monturio was arrested at the station after an interview with investigators.

She works for a pharmaceutical company, according to her booking sheet.

Her cellphone wasn’t accepting messages Friday afternoon.

Prosecutors didn’t say why Monturio was parked at the apartment complex before the crash Thursday.

Michael J. Johnston, executive director of the Cambridge Housing Authority, which operates the apartment complex, said in an e-mail, “We have no idea why the defendant was in our lot yesterday. We do not have a manned desk where visitors sign in and any one of the residents could have buzzed her into the building. That is not something that we monitor.”

An employee in the lobby declined to comment Friday. A memorial of candles, flowers, and a crucifix was visible at the crash site in the lot.

CAMBRIDGE, MA - 9/07/2018:Sandra Ellis of Cambridge, who knew the victim placed a momento by the small memorial in Cambridge on 150 Erie Street at the scene of an accident where a fatal hit-and-run caused the death of Romelia Gallardo,80 yrs old of Cambridge. ( David L Ryan/Globe Staff ) SECTION: METRO TOPIC 08cambridgepic
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
A memorial was visible at the crash site in the parking lot of the L. B. Johnson Apartments complex in Cambridge.

Neighbors in the building described Gallardo as a kind woman always on the go in her wheeled walker, despite her advanced age. Her grandson said earlier outside court that she had immigrated to the United States from Guatemala and lived in New York before moving to Massachusetts several years ago.

One tenant in Gallardo’s building, Zuni Garcia, said Gallardo regularly played dominoes with another woman and may have been coming from or going to Dunkin’ Donuts when she was struck.

“Every day, she had to have that coffee,” Garcia said. She also rebuked Monturio for allegedly fleeing the scene.

“You don’t leave anybody by [themselves],” she said. “You should stay there and call 911. You have to have some dignity for the person.”

Monturio is due back in court Nov. 27. Her driving history shows that she has three speeding tickets and three prior accidents on her record, and her license was suspended as an “immediate threat” after Thursday’s crash.

John R. Ellement of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.