Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Woman in Crosswalk on Mystic Avenue in Somerville

The Mystic Avenue crosswalk at the Kensington pedestrian underpass in East Somerville.
The Mystic Avenue crosswalk at the Kensington pedestrian underpass in East Somerville.

Massachusetts State Police have arrested Zewdu Abate Gedamu, 64, of Roxbury, for killing Cheryl Pauline Richards, 52, of Somerville, as she was walking across Mystic Avenue in the crosswalk Saturday evening near Assembly Square.

Gedamu, who was driving a 2008 Mercedes-Benz E350, struck Richards shortly before 8 p.m. on the crosswalk that connects Stop and Shop to the Kensington underpass, one of the only pedestrian routes that connects under Interstate 93 between most of residential Somerville and the growing Assembly Row district.

Between its intersection with the Fellsway and Sullivan Square, Mystic Avenue functions as a frontage road for Interstate 93, with on- and off-ramps weaving at high speeds with local traffic.

With the rapid growth happening a quarter of a mile away at Assembly Square, and with two identified “high-crash” clusters in the area, the harrowing junctions of the Fellsway, Mystic Avenue and McGrath Highway have been the subject of two state safety audits in recent years: in 2015 and in 2017.

The 2017 audit noted that the Kensington Underpass “is dimly lit and the high speeds of the vehicles make it difficult for pedestrians to cross.” WalkBoston, which participated in the 2017 audit, posted this video of the crosswalk at the time (the video is taken from the north side of the crosswalk, looking south towards Stop and Shop):

Shortly after this video was made, MassDOT installed a “high-intensity activated crosswalk beacon” at the crosswalk. That light flashes red to indicate that vehicles mush stop when pedestrians have a walk signal.

East Somerville pedestrians have limited options for crossing under the Interstate 93 viaduct to get to Assembly Square and its T stop, and none are particularly friendly to people on foot. Besides the Kensington Underpass, a pedestrian coming from East Somerville could go 500 feet to the west to navigate a complex set of crosswalks across 8 lanes of Mystic Avenue and 6 lanes of the Fellsway, or choose a much more out-of-the-way crosswalk half a mile to the south, on Lombardi Street.

Gedamu is expected to appear in Somerville District Court on Monday for an arraignment.

Police report that he initially drove away after the crash, but turned himself in Sunday morning. As of Sunday evening, he is being charged with violating a crosswalk and leaving the scene of a crash causing personal injury or death, but police say that more charges are possible based on the outcomes of an ongoing investigation.

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