Debbrah Marie Schweitzer Pesce liked to keep busy. So when her vehicle broke down around Christmas, Pesce borrowed a bicycle from a fellow resident at the Brookside Motel in Monroe. That way, she could go where she needed.
Days later, another motel resident went to a neighborhood grocery store. An accident had occurred nearby, and the resident saw a bike with a bent tire in the street. The bike looked familiar. Back at Brookside Motel, the residents and managers pieced together who had been riding the bike: Pesce.
Pesce, 53, was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Dec. 28 when she was bicycling across the intersection of Old Owen Road and U.S. Route 2.
“She was one of the greats,” said Christopher Johnson, co-manager of the Brookside Motel.
Johnson said that Pesce, whom he considered a friend, had been living in Room 18 for a couple weeks at the time of her death. It was her second stay at the motel. She had rented a motel room for two nights late last year, moved out, then returned in mid-December, he said.
Pesce had lived in her white, four-door SUV for a while, he said, sleeping in the rear of the vehicle. When the SUV stopped working, she kept it in the motel parking lot with the hope that she could earn money to have it repaired.
The Monroe Monitor & Valley News reported that witnesses at the scene of the accident described the hit-and-run vehicle as a late-80s or early-90s white pickup with dark blue or green side panels. The pickup had revved its engine while stopped behind another vehicle at a stoplight, before the pickup drove around the other vehicle and struck Pesce. She was then hit by two more vehicles that traveled through the intersection.
The Monroe Police Department issued footage from a surveillance camera taken shortly before the hit-and-run that shows a truck that appears to match witness descriptions. As of press time, police had yet to locate the driver of the vehicle.
Johnson said that in the weeks he knew Pesce, she always looked for things to keep herself occupied. She volunteered at a local church and babysat children. Pesce also helped Johnson and his wife, the motel’s other co-manager, clean rooms at the Brookside.
The 18-room motel offers long-term, low-rent occupancy to residents, he said, with rooms that come with a microwave, a stove-top burner or full oven, cable TV and WiFi for $200 a week. With at least one resident that has lived at Brookside for almost 10 years, Johnson said motel residents are like a family.
Residents had grown close to Pesce, Johnson said, and some told him they miss saying “hi” to her. A number of residents won’t leave the apartment at night for fear that they may be hit by a vehicle. “It’s torn people up,” he said of Pesce’s death.
Brookside Motel is less than half a mile from the site of the hit-and-run.
Johnson said that Pesce possessed a rare quality in that she always wanted to help others, even when she had little. She let people with nowhere to stay crash in her room for a couple of nights, and she felt pride in the volunteer work she did around Monroe.
Pesce had family in the area who came to the motel and claimed her belongings, he said. Her sister took the white SUV.
On the day of the accident, Pesce and a friend had ridden bikes to go shopping at a nearby Goodwill. Then the friend and Pesce separated, Johnson said: “And she didn’t make it home.”