Donelle “Nellie” Yelli was crossing the street in Green Lake when she was struck and killed by a driver. The crash happened at the intersection of North 82nd Street and Wallingford Avenue North shortly before 7 p.m. Yelli was a resident of a nearby group house; residents described her as a “mother hen” who would enthusiastically act as a tour guide for her new roommates.
The 27-year-old driver, Treza Hafzalla, got out of her car to check on the victim but then returned to her vehicle and sped off. She returned to the scene 43 minutes later. She told police that her boyfriend had convinced her to return to the scene and cooperate with police. She had been charged with drunk driving after a previous incident, but that charge was reduced to negligent driving. Now, she is facing charges of felony hit-and-run and vehicular homicide.
The driver told police that she had consumed one drink an hour before the crash, but investigators believe that she was more intoxicated than she claimed to be. At a court hearing on Monday, the prosecutor told the court, “The defendant left the scene then returned back to the scene, smelled of alcohol on her breath as well as her person, admitted she’d been consuming alcohol then refused the voluntary field sobriety test.”
Hafzalla also made strange statements to police. She claimed that another person had urged her to leave the scene, but refused to name that person. She also claimed that the woman she struck had lunched at her while wielding orange construction fencing; police have not found any evidence suggesting that this story is true. Bail has been set at $200,000.
Some residents of Green Lake have told reporters that the intersection of North 82nd Street and Wallingford Avenue North is known to be dangerous. This is not the first time that a pedestrian has been struck in this intersection, and fender-benders are a common occurrence. Although the intersection is right in front of Bishop Blanchet High School, drivers often speed in the area. “People drive by this road like it’s a busy street but really it’s by a school and it’s in a neighborhood,” one person who was familiar with the area said.
PHOTO: The intersection where the crash occurred. Although there are marked crosswalks, the intersection lacks street lights and drivers often speed through the area despite the high volume of pedestrian traffic. Image source: Google Maps