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Philly man is arrested in a fatal Cheltenham hit-and-run

Investigators say Terrell Russell rented a GMC Acadia nine days before hitting and killing a pedestrian.

Terrell Russell, 25, was behind the wheel of this GMC Acadia when he struck and killed a woman crossing Cheltenham Avenue, investigators said Monday.
Terrell Russell, 25, was behind the wheel of this GMC Acadia when he struck and killed a woman crossing Cheltenham Avenue, investigators said Monday.Read moreCourtesy Cheltenham Police

Terrell Russell rented a brand new, white GMC Acadia from an Enterprise store near his home in East Mount Airy last month. Nine days later, police said Monday, Russell struck a woman as she crossed Cheltenham Avenue, fled the scene of the fatal crash in the SUV, and spent weeks trying to avoid both the rental company and detectives investigating the case.

But that ended late Friday, when Russell, 25, was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, tampering with evidence and related offenses. He was released after posting $50,000 unsecured bail.

A white GMC Acadia struck Shanna Hurdle on Sept. 27 as she was crossing Cheltenham Avenue near Ogontz Avenue, according to investigators, throwing her 30 feet and then running over her as she lay prone in the road.

The SUV then sped away toward Philadelphia, turning onto nearby Upsal Street. Medics declared Hurdle, 30, dead at the scene.

Witnesses later told police that the SUV’s driver struck Hurdle as he sped around traffic that had stopped at a red light, according to the affidavit of probable cause for Russell’s arrest.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, in announcing the charges Monday, thanked the public for its assistance in locating Russell, and praised the Cheltenham Township police officers who tracked him down by combining “high-tech investigative techniques with good old-fashioned police work.”

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victim’s family and we can only hope that knowing who hit Shanna and then left the scene of her death helps them during this difficult time," Steele said.

» READ MORE: Cheltenham police searching for car used in fatal hit-and-run crash

Russell hung up on a reporter when reached for comment Monday. He is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing in the case on Oct. 29.

In piecing together the case, investigators compiled a list of all 2020 GMC Acadias in the Philadelphia region, examining more than 100 vehicles, the affidavit said. When their search turned up empty, they turned to rental agencies, and finally discovered a promising lead at an Enterprise franchise in Elkins Park.

There, they learned that Russell had rented a vehicle matching the description of the one used in the crash and had failed to return it, extending the deadline for when it was due to its maximum, the affidavit said. Staff at the agency told detectives he was not returning their calls.

Detectives then recovered surveillance from the street where Russell lives that showed him driving the damaged SUV back to his home on the night of the crash.

After being contacted by investigators, Russell agreed to show them the vehicle, first promising to bring the SUV to the Cheltenham Township police station, then changing the location of the meeting to his home, the affidavit said.

On the day of the meeting, Russell didn’t show up, and ignored detectives' attempts to contact him. The warrant for his arrest was issued shortly after, investigators said.