A 21-year-old Boston man has been charged in the fatal hit-and-run killing of a woman in Massachusetts.
Nicholas A. Rivas-Vasquez pleaded not guilty Monday after being accused of hitting 54-year-old Jean Heppler with his Ford Escape in Dedham and leaving the scene. He was ordered held on $5,000 bail.
Rivas-Vasquez will return to court on Jan. 8, 2015 for a pre-trial conference. He is required to stay in Massachusetts.
Rivas-Vasquez, originally from Hamden, Connecticut, is a student at Mount Ida College in Newton.
Police responded around 10:45 p.m. Friday to the crash at the intersection of Washington Street and Lower East Street, near the town's border with Boston's West Roxbury neighborhood. She was taken to Norwood Hospital, where she died.
"She was a kind, good-hearted person," Theresa Szczesny, a friend of Heppler, said.
"You don't leave a dog on the side of the road, let alone a human being," Heppler's friend Laurie Poltanova said. "That woman was horrible hurt. My God, I just don't think it's right."
Officials believe Heppler was crossing Washington Street when she was hit in the southbound travel lane. People who live nearby tell NECN drivers often try to make illegal turns or try to beat the red light at the busy intersection.
Domino's Pizza delivery driver Cindy Cardillo says she was 50 yards from where Heppler was struck and says she never saw the driver turn back.
"I heard this awful, awful thud," she recalled. "I went to the light on Curve Street to take a left on Washington, and I saw an umbrella and I saw a sneaker in the middle of the road."
Heppler's friends say they hope justice is served for her and her 14-year-old daughter, who is now left without a mother.
"Jeanie was the sweetest person you ever could have met ever, anywhere, and everyone misses her," her coworker Eric Randlov said.
Massachusetts State Police and the Norfolk District Attorney's office are assisting in the investigation, which is ongoing.