LYNN, MASS. (WHDH) - A large crowd gathered for a somber candlelight vigil at Red Rock Park in Lynn on Wednesday night to honor the memory of a 19-year-old woman who was killed in a wrong-way crash with a robbery suspect in Saugus.

“A mother shouldn’t be burying a child,” Michelle Luongo said through tears after learning of the death of her daughter, Ashley Forward. “She’s too young for this, she was going to go so far.”

Forward’s 10-year-old sister, Jillian, was also grappling with the sudden loss of the sister she looked up to.

“It’s heartbreaking to know your big sister got killed by some idiot,” she said. “She brought our family together, she was an inspiration.”

Officers responding to a report of an unarmed robbery at a 7-Eleven on Lincoln Avenue around 10:50 a.m. learned the suspect, later identified as 35-year-old William Leger, of Somerville, had fled the store in a vehicle, according to the Saugus Police Department.

Leger led officers and troopers on a brief pursuit that was immediately terminated when he turned onto Route 107 and started driving south in the northbound lanes.

After driving for about a half-mile, he slammed head-on into a vehicle being driven by Forward, who was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

“A mother shouldn’t be burying a child. She’s too young for this, she was going to go so far.”

Michelle Luongo

Leger was taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Charges against him have not yet been announced.

Forward, who lived just three miles from where she was struck, graduated from high school last year. She recently wrapped up her freshman year at Emmanuel College and had dreams of becoming a nurse, according to family.

Pat Luongo, Ashley’s grandmother, said her granddaughter was on her way to visit her.

“She called and said, ‘Nana, I’m coming by,’” Pat said.

Forward’s cousin, Alexis Krzywicki, said, “We weren’t even cousins, we were like sisters…I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.”

Forward is now being remembered as a cheerleader, a softball player, and a young woman who loved life and adored her family.

Troopers assigned to the Essex District Attorney’s Office are assisting Saugus police with an investigation.

The Luongo family says they plan to be present in court when Leger faces a judge.

(Copyright (c) 2024 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox