Roxbury man arrested in connection with fatal Somerville hit-and-run crash

A pedestrian crossed Mystic Avenue on Sunday. A woman was struck and killed in that same crosswalk one night earlier.
A pedestrian crossed Mystic Avenue on Sunday. A woman was struck and killed in that same crosswalk one night earlier.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

SOMERVILLE — A Roxbury man turned himself in Sunday morning and was placed under arrest in connection with a crash that killed a woman crossing a street Saturday night, according to Massachusetts State Police.

Zewdu Abate Gedamu, 64, was charged with leaving the scene of the crash that left 52-year-old Cheryl Pauline Richards dead, State Police said in a statement.

Gedamu was driving southbound on Mystic Avenue near the Stop & Shop about 8 p.m. when he allegedly hit Richards, a Somerville resident, who was crossing Mystic Avenue in a crosswalk, according to the statement.

He continued driving, police said, while Richards was taken by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.


Gedamu is being held on $1,000 cash bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Somerville District Court, according to police.

Nobody answered at Gedamu’s residence Sunday night. Several neighbors said he had moved in about a year ago and they did not know him.

Richards lived less than a mile away from where she was hit.

A next-door neighbor said the two had a very “neighborly” relationship and would garden, shovel snow, and make jokes together. She said Richards was a “super sweet, bubbly” woman who would walk everywhere and always smiled.

“We used to do yardwork together so that we could keep each other entertained,” said Crystal Legaski at her home Sunday night.

“She was just really funny,” Legaski said. “We would joke about lots of different things when we were doing our yardwork — ‘Maybe if we had a glass of wine, it would make this go a little bit easier’ — things like that.”

Mystic Avenue is a busy five-lane thoroughfare, which pedestrians say can be dangerous. A crosswalk and light were installed there near the Stop & Shop a few years ago, but many people still cross while disregarding the signal, and cars often start driving before the crossing countdown finishes, according to local residents.


Laxmi Spearing, 24, who lives near the crash site, said she has been walking in the area for more than two years and occasionally drives on Mystic Avenue.

Spearing said she feels unsafe while driving but even more so while walking along the road.

“A lot of people go through — a lot of kids, a lot of teenagers — it’s the shortest way to get to Assembly Row, the shopping center; that’s why people go through here,” Spearing said.

“It’s a walkway on a highway, which is not smart; kids want a shortcut.”

The crosswalk gives pedestrians very little time to cross the street, she said, and they should at least have 30 seconds to cross.

A Globe reporter timed how long pedestrians are given to walk and found that they have about 12 seconds to cross, with the countdown starting at eight seconds.

Many large trucks frequently travel the road, some to access the Stop & Shop loading dock.

Paul Tritto, who works as an assistant meat manager at the grocery store, said he enjoys people-watching during his 15-minute breaks and spends about an hour a week observing the intersection where the woman was hit.

“I’ve seen a lot of near misses — people just flying around,” Tritto said.

“If you’re not paying attention and that light’s green, and you’re coming, you don’t see somebody there — you may have a rough time stopping. You may not have enough time, a quick reaction.”


He commutes to the Stop & Shop six days a week from New Hampshire and drives that portion of Mystic Avenue almost daily.

Although he has never seen anybody get hit, Tritto says, conditions are dangerous.

“All you need is one split second of not watching — whether it’s the driver, whether it’s the pedestrian — that one split second, and it could happen.”

Contact Diamond Naga Siu at diamondnaga.siu@globe.com.