• Driver accused of intentionally hitting, killing 79-year-old woman appears in court

    By: Glenn Counts , Mark Becker

    Updated:

    MATTHEWS, N.C. - A driver who police say intentionally hit and killed a 79-year-old woman in the parking lot of a Matthews Aldi, then tried to run over four more people appeared in court for the first time Tuesday. 

    Sawan Alshabani, 54, is charged with first degree murder, two counts of attempted first degree murder and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

    Neither Alshabani nor the attorney who appeared in court with her Tuesday gave any indication of a possible motive.

    Officials said they were able to bring these charges because of witness statements, the speed of the vehicle and video footage. 

    [READ MORE: After several pedestrians struck but cars, city wants to make streets safer]

    According to officers, Alshabani intentionally hit Vira Nahorna near the front door at the Aldi on West John Street. 

    She also attempted to hit at least four other people before leaving the scene, including three adults and a child. 

    When officers got there, they said they found Nahorna in the parking lot, and she was rushed to Carolina Medical Center Main where she later died of her injuries.

    Police said a short time after the incident, Alshabani met up with officers for questioning. 

    "The driver left the scene initially, then she did call to meet with officers,” Matthews Police Lt. Tim Aycock said. “I think all parties were shook up -- the family of the deceased and the driver, as well -- so investigators are talking to her to figure out the factors, and we have an accident reconstruction team that is looking into the speed factor."

    (Vira Nahorna)

    Bob Scull, who was in the parking lot that day, told Channel 9's Mark Becker, Alshabani deliberately turned toward the victim and there's no doubt in his mind it was intentional. 

    "It had to be deliberate because there's no other way to get to that spot," Scull said. 

    Nohorna's family friend Nelly Kushnir said she saw Nohorna Sunday at church, who had been a member at First Slavic Baptist for over a decade.

    "It's just a shock," said Kushnir. “I mean, we're all in shock. It's really crazy. She was just here yesterday and gone today. She was just a very sweet lady -- always at church -- prays a lot and went to Monday night prayers -- just always a positive lady.

    Police said the investigation indicates this was "random and isolated" and there are no known connections between Alshabani and the victims. 

    "This is an active and ongoing investigation and motive is part of what we are looking into," Chief Clark Pennington said. "I really can't comment on what the motive is at this time, but it is part of our investigation."

    Check back with wsoctv.com for updates.

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