Man charged in Shrewsbury hit-and-run crash that left young woman dead

A suspected hit-and-driver was charged in connection with a crash in Shrewsbury that claimed the life of a young woman who was walking home from work.

Jerry Santiago, Jr., 24, was arraigned Wednesday in Westborough District Court on charges including leaving the scene of personal injury resulting in death and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, according to the Worcester District Attorney’s Office.

Officers responding to a report of a crash involving a pedestrian in the area of Route 9 at the South Street intersection around 10 p.m. Saturday found 20-year-old Ghufran Mutar suffering from serious injuries, the DA’s office said.

Mutar was taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where she later died of her injuries.

An investigation revealed that Mutar had finished her shift at CVS moments before she was struck. Authorities say she was simply crossing the busy highway at South Street, trying to get home.

Police allege Santiago was driving a  borrowed 2011 Dodge Journey that belonged to his girlfriend’s mother, eastbound on Route 9 when he struck Mutar.

After the crash, police say Santiago did not stop, but instead, kept on driving, east  on Route 9. He allegedly pulled over in the parking lot of a nearby Mercedes Benz dealership. And there he was seen on surveillance, getting out of the car, checking out the damage.

In court, a prosecutor said surveillance video showed a woman was in the car with Santiago, and that they threw away a ¾ full bottle of tequila and a piece of the car, both of which were recovered from the parking lot.

“They discarded several items including bottles of alcohol and the side view mirror to their vehicle. After obtaining that  side view mirror, they were able to determine that it belonged to a dodge journey,” prosecutor Julieanne Karcasinas said in court.

Monday afternoon, the Dodge Journey was found in the parking lot of the Extended Stay American Suites hotel in Westborough.

That’s where Santiago’s girlfriend, Justina Riopelle and her mother, Tara, were staying.

The girlfriend allegedly told police, the couple knew they struck someone on Route 9, but that Santiago refused to go back to the scene of the crash.

She also told them, immediately before the crash, they were in the parking lot of a U-Haul Storage facility in Worcester.

Video surveillance allegedly shows Santiago getting into the car, and driving towards the crash site 4 miles away.

After the arraignment, Santiago’s family refused to comment.

Police say neither Santiago nor Riopelle were licensed to drive and that Santiago only had a Learner’s Permit.

Santiago is held on $50,000 bail and is due back in court later this month.

State police detectives assigned to the DA’s office are assisting Shrewsbury police with an investigation.

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