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Beloved "mother hen" at Greenwood group home killed in Seattle crash

Donelle "Nellie" Yelli (Photo provided by family friend)

SEATTLE -- For 12 years Donelle “Nellie” Yelli was the mother hen to any new resident coming in to Greenwood House.

Yelli would recommend supermarkets, play tour guide and even recite bus schedules off the top of her head to new roommates. But when the 62-year-old didn’t return home on Sunday night, fellow residents at the Greenwood low-income housing complex grew nervous and called their case manager.

Yelli was struck by a hit-and-run driver while crossing at the intersection of North 82nd Street and Wallingford Avenue North just before 7 p.m., authorities said.

A man whose house is just feet away from the crosswalk where Yelli was struck in said he heard a terrible crash, ran outside and found the woman motionless. He said neither the driver, nor car, responsible was anywhere in sight.

Seattle police said, in an affidavit of probable cause released Monday, that the suspect returned to the scene 43 minutes after the crash was reported. She told them that her boyfriend convinced her to return, the affidavit said.

She also told officers she had one drink about an hour before the crash.

On Monday, a King County District Court judge ordered the woman held in lieu of $200,000 bail for investigation of vehicular homicide and felony hit-and-run. The prosecution had sought for her to be held on $500,000 bail.

According to court records the woman had previously been charged with drunken driving, but the case was reduced to a charge of negligent driving.

“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,” the prosecutor told the court.

KOMO is not naming the suspect because she has not been formally charged. A group of the 27-year-old woman’s friends and family attended her court hearing Monday to offer their support.

Yelli’s son, Michael, McIntosh, said he spoke to his mother about 90 minutes before the crash. He said they had spent New Year’s Eve together and had talked on the phone that night about his work and her upcoming week.

“She really went out of her way to help people,” McIntosh told KOMO.

McIntosh said authorities called him Sunday night to tell him about the crash.

A group of Seattle police officers and a police chaplain spent part of the day Monday at Greenwood House consoling grieving residents.

Laura DelRagno, who is the case manager for the home’s 12 female residents considered Yelli a friend.

“She was the leader in the house the matriarch,” DelRagno said. “Whenever there was somebody new she was always very welcoming. She would show them just all the ropes, the neighborhoods, the stores the bus lines.”

Residents of the Green Lake neighborhood where the crash occurred say the intersection has long been the scene of fender benders, people speeding and near pedestrian collisions. The intersection is next to Bishop Blanchet High School.

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