Neighbors mourn homeless vet in wheelchair who was struck, killed in Philadelphia

A memorial to Elaine Heyl stands at the corner of Lehigh Avenue and Mascher Street

A memorial to Elaine Heyl stands at the corner of Lehigh Avenue and Mascher Street

Against a stone wall on Lehigh Avenue, sits a makeshift memorial for a 37-year-old homeless veteran who asked for spare change from her wheelchair.

Votive candles, teddy bears and balloons crowd the bottom of a piece of white poster board scrawled with sentiment for a woman neighbors knew simply as Elaine.

“North Philly loves you.”

“Rest Easy.”

“We will truly miss you.”

From a stoop a few steps away, Angel Cruz spoke fondly of Elaine, who was a fixture on Lehigh before she was struck and killed early Saturday morning. It’s unclear if she was panhandling at the time.

Police identified the woman as Elaine Heyl, and they have who have not released her name, have charged a Delaware County man with murder in the case.

“Everybody liked her,” said Cruz. “She didn’t bother anyone.”

On most days, you could find Heyl in the center median near Mascher Street. Alfredo Pagan said he always waved hello, even brought her dinner on a number of occasions.

A lot of people did.

“She was a beautiful person,” said Pagan outside a nearby beauty salon. “Let her soul rest in peace.”

Police said Andrew Acito of Glenolden, Pennsylvania, struck Heyl around 1:40 a.m. with his Ford F-250 white pickup truck. He sped off, police said, and then hit an 18-year-old woman before being arrested.

The second victim was treated for minor injuries, but Heyl was pronounced dead shortly after she was hit.

Acito, 29, who has a history of drunken driving arrests, is in custody and being charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, driving under the influence and related offenses.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 7.

More than 30 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents in 2015, according to police. More than 1,300 were injured.

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