Disclosure of Covid contact delays Monturio trial after a review of video showing resident’s death
The trial of Ashley Monturio for allegedly leaving the scene after she ran over Romelia Gallardo, 80, outside a public housing development halted abruptly Tuesday because one of Monturio’s attorneys reported being exposed to Covid-19. Cambridge District Court Judge David E. Frank ordered the trial suspended until April 19.
About two and a half hours into the second day of trial, attorney Thomas Hoopes disclosed that his assistant, Cara Murphy, had just reported that she had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus. Defense and prosecution attorneys said they were willing to continue, with masks, but Frank refused. “I want to proceed but have to step back and realize the world we’re living in,” he said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to continue.”
After Hoopes made his disclosure, a court officer handed Murphy a mask and offered them to other attorneys. Only Murphy put hers on. Since Monday, when the trial began, only a few people throughout the courthouse, in Medford, have been seen wearing masks, including employees. The court officer who handed Murphy a mask wasn’t wearing one.
Monturio, 44, of Pembroke, is charged with leaving the scene after causing personal injury, a misdemeanor that carries penalties of up to $1,000 and two years in prison. On Sept. 6, 2018, Monturio mistakenly drove into a parking lot for LBJ Apartments at 150 Erie St., Cambridgeport, on her way to a job interview, then turned around to leave. Gallardo, a resident of the low-income housing development, was walking through the parking lot and died when Monturio ran over her in an Infiniti SUV.
Monturio stopped and called 911, telling a dispatcher that a woman was on the ground, bleeding, and she didn’t know what had happened. The dispatcher asked her to remain until help arrived, but Monturio said other people were there and she needed to leave for a job interview. In an opening statement on the first day of trial, Hoopes said Monturio did not know she had hit Gallardo, had stopped and not fled, and behaved like a good Samaritan.
Before the trial was suspended Tuesday, a witness from the Cambridge Housing Authority, which operates LBJ, broke down in tears when she was asked to describe seeing Gallardo lying on the pavement in the parking lot. Zelda Dennis, a manager of the building, also described three surveillance cameras outside the building: one on each side and one at the main entrance on Erie St.
After seeing Gallardo’s body, Dennis went inside her office to view video from the camera monitoring the parking lot where the accident occurred, then asked a Cambridge police officer to watch it. Officer Brian Hartunian testified Monday that he initially believed the incident was a “medical call” but after seeing the video “we knew she had been struck by a vehicle and run over.”
Assistant district attorney Ashlee Mastrangelo played the eight-minute, 53-second video Tuesday, causing some of Gallardo’s relatives to leave the courtroom sobbing. The film showed a white car – Monturio’s SUV – driving into the parking lot, then disappearing out of the range of the camera. The SUV returns, moving toward the exit to Erie Street, then stops. A woman wheeling a walker – Gallardo – comes along the passenger side of the car and turns in front of it. The car then drives out of the lot onto Erie Street, leaving Gallardo on the ground.
Cause of death
Medical examiner Rebecca Dedrick, who performed an autopsy on Gallardo’s body, described her extensive injuries, including a laceration on the right side of her head that exposed bone. Gallardo was 4 feet, 10 inches tall and weighed 98 pounds, Dedrick said. She found the cause of death to be “blunt force injury,” she said.
Under questioning from Monturio’s attorney Hoopes, Dedrick said Gallardo had dementia. She had said in her direct testimony that Gallardo’s “underlying” medical conditions were not enough to cause her death.