Yulia Sherman and Romualda Gulbiniene both grew up in the former Soviet Union — Sherman in Ukraine, Gulbiniene in Lithuania. In the Philadelphia area, the women lived about six miles from each other, but probably never met.
Their paths crossed tragically on Dec. 12, forever altering their families’ lives. A vehicle driven by Gulbiniene, 67, struck and killed Sherman, 82, as the older woman was crossing Bustleton Avenue in Somerton with a cart full of groceries, according to Philadelphia police.
Gulbiniene was arrested Friday and charged with causing an accident involving death while not properly licensed, failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, and careless driving, investigators said.
Her attorney, Lawrence J. Bozzelli, on Monday disputed the way police described the crash. He said that it was not a hit-and-run and that Gulbiniene drove only a short distance from the scene, parking her car at a nearby gas station.
She gave a brief statement to investigators there, Bozzelli said, then agreed to go to Police Headquarters to provide a written statement.
In fact, Bozzelli said, both Gulbiniene and her grandson — whom she called for help after the crash — are visible in footage from the scene broadcast by TV stations.
“By all appearances, this does appear to be a tragic accident,” Bozzelli said.
Investigators did not respond to a request for comment.
Gulbiniene was a recent immigrant to Richboro, Bucks County, where her family has owned a house for several years. A man who answered the door at her home declined to comment Monday, referring all questions to Bozzelli.
Bozzelli said that during the immigration process, Gulbiniene was told that her Lithuanian driver’s license would be honored by the state Department of Transportation for up to a year after her arrival in the United States.
Sherman had lived in Northeast Philadelphia since 1978, when she emigrated from what was then the Ukrainian republic of the Soviet Union.
She opened a market and a restaurant in the Northeast, one of the first Russian-speaking businesses in the city in recent times. Sherman retired from her business several years ago, according to her family.
“My mother-in-law was one of the kindest, most loved individuals that I know of,” her son-in-law, Mark Ingerman, said at a news conference organized by police the day after the crash.
Sherman had opened a supermarket on Old Bustleton Avenue near Welsh Road in Bustleton, and after she closed that, she opened an Eastern European restaurant named Odessa, after the port city from which she hailed, Ingerman said.
Her customers knew her like “a grandma,” Ingerman said. She was never impersonal, he said. “It was always like, ‘How was your family? How are the kids? What are they doing now?’”
Gulbiniene remained in custody Monday with bail set at 10% of $100,000. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2020.