On Wednesday night, a billboard will light up the sky over a desolate stretch of State Road with the face of a young woman who lost her life there one year ago, pleading for information leading to her killer.
For Anna Pozzi, the mother of Theresa Pozzi, 33, who was killed in a hit-and-run right before Christmas that remains unsolved, the billboard is her prayer for closure. She’s hoping someone who saw something the night of the fatal crash will seethe sign and help solve the case that, as she put it, ruined her life.
“There’s no way you can go through life keeping this inside yourself,” she said through her tears inside the South Philly home where Theresa grew up. “There has to be one person they told this to … and maybe I can start healing a little.”
The new sign, and an honorary ceremony Tuesday morning to rename the Kimball Street block where the Pozzi live as “Theresa Pozzi Way,” were literally the family’s wishes that they tacked on a wall set up in the Italian Market during Pope Francis’ visit to gather the community’s hopes and prayers.
Simonetta Lein, a recent transplant from Italy to Philly, set up the ‘Wishwall” as part of the Wishwall Foundation, an organization designed to help the community’s wishes come true. She said she spent months to make sure the Pozzi’s desire for closure and justice came true.
“I really feel like they’re my family now.I’m just putting all my energy to really find this killer,” Lein said.
Theresa was killed around 5:20 p.m. on Dec. 23, 2014, while crossing State Road in Northeast Philly. She was walking to a bus stop after visiting a friend in a city jail.
Police recovered surveillance video showing the speeding pick-up truck or tow truck that killed Theresa, but have never been able to find the driver.
On Monday, Capt. John Wilczysnki of the Accident Investigation Division renewed his call to the public for assistance in finding Pozzi’s killer. A $15,000reward is offered for information leading to the driver’s arrest.
“All we really have is a black pick-up or tow truck with front end damage. We have grainy video,” Wilczynski said, saying they had no pieces of the car, witnesses or tag number to investigate. “When you come up with nothing, it’s very frustrating for investigators.”
Pozzi’s life has been filled with pain after her daughter’s death. Her husband, who was ill and had dementia, died five months after Theresa.
“He could not handle Theresa’s death … He just couldn’t accept it. … He’d say, ‘Theresa will be coming in … Theresa come home yet?'” she said. “He was heart-broken. He just gave up. He had no will to live after that.”
Pozzi visited Theresa’s grave for the first time this past weekend. She said that when she opened up theallotmentpaperwork for Theresa’s grave, a piece of paper fell out — a picture of Theresa’s body at the morgue.
“That’s a hell of a picture to have to remember her by, isn’t it,” Pozzi said, breaking out in fresh tears.
Pozzi, who has three surviving children and five grandchildren, wears Theresa’s picture in a locket around her neck and tries to stay positive for her family. But it’s hard.
“It’s taking everything that I have within me to get through this holiday. The spirit’s not there,” she said. “My grandkids say, ‘I know why you don’t like Christmasgrandma. Aunt Te-Te’s not here.'”
For now, she clings to the few details that make her daughter’s death less horrific. After the crash, her daughter’s pocketbook flew through the air and hit the car of a nurse, who pulled over and tried to provide aid. It was too late, but that person was with Theresa as she died, Pozzi said.
“Had they not been there, my daughter would have died alone. At least it ain’t too bad,” she said, weeping.
Now the renamed street will provide a lasting tribute to Theresa.
Lein, who created the Wishwall Foundation, said this is the first wish the foundation has granted in the U.S. Councilman Mark Squilla helped make it a reality, she said. Lein first found out about Theresa when she saw Carol Pozzi, Theresa’s sister, writing on the wishing wall and then running away crying.
“This is my visionof the American dream … anybody can come to this country and do good,” Lein said. “She [Anna] says she knows this will not bring back her daughter. But it’s like closure. Having the street renamed, it’s another kind of closure.”
Part of the closure is just knowing it would have made Theresa smile, Pozzi said.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful thought, that every time we turn down Kimball Street we’re gonna see Theresa’s name on that sign. She was proud of where she came from,” Pozzi said.”I can see her saying, ‘They got my name up there! My name’s in lights!'”
“Someone had to see something.I just ask people to think. Please sit and think. Maybe, just maybe, something willtriggerin your mind.”