History-making referee killed in north Austin hit-and-run, friends say

Photo of Linda Kay Fletcher. (Courtesy/Gloria Cox)
Photo of Linda Kay Fletcher. (Courtesy/Gloria Cox)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Friends tell KXAN that 77-year-old Linda Kay Fletcher was the woman killed in a hit-and-run in north Austin Tuesday afternoon.

Police have not yet released the identity of the victim, but friends and neighbors have spoken with police and feel confident that she was the person who died there Tuesday.

Austin police said that around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday a woman was standing outside a legally parked car on Parkfield Drive when she was struck by a car. Medics performed CPR on her, but she died at the scene. Police believe the suspect vehicles were last seen going southbound on Parkfield Drive toward US 183.

APD has not yet released the suspect vehicle descriptions and asks anyone with information on the incident to come forward.

Lucinda Facundo, who has lived next to where the crash happened since 1982, explained that she has seen many crashes nearby.

“We were concerned that a horrible accident would happen or someone would be killed and that’s what happened Tuesday,” Facundo said.

Facundo explained that, southbound on Parkfield, the two lane road is bordered by a bike lane that reduces to one lane, just before a four-way stop. She said that many drivers go above the speed limit down the street and then end up driving into each other’s lanes at the last minute as they approach the stop sign.

Facundo and her husband say they would like to see the city complete a traffic study in their area and install a median or speed bumps.

A man who lives right next to the crash scene, Elworth Steve, said he saw the crash happen and believes that the vehicles involved were speeding or racing. Steve didn’t know the victim but explained that she arrived at his home to buy things he was selling from his yard as part of a moving-away sale.

Shirley Johnson, a former student and long-time friend of the victim, explained that Fletcher was known for her love of cats and her accomplishments in the sports officiating community.

At the time of her death, Johnson said that Fletcher coordinated volleyball officials for the Southland Conference, which is a collegiate athletics conference. The conference wrote about Fletcher’s death, calling her “among the kindest persons anyone could ever encounter, and her spirit, humor and love for others was always evident in everything she accomplished.”

“She was honestly one of those people that you will never have a better friend,” said Gloria Cox, another friend of Fletcher’s.

Cox said Fletcher is the former supervisor of volleyball officials for the Southwest conference and then for the Big 12.

Chris Plonsky, UT Austin’s Women’s Athletics Director, confirmed that Fletcher was the first woman to referee a women’s basketball game at the Frank Erwin Center. Plonsky explained that Fletcher was a long-time official in both men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball. She added that in the earlier years of basketball, most referees were male. Plonsky also received confirmation that Fletcher was a hit-and-run victim.

“She was a beloved and dedicated person,” Plonsky said of Fletcher.

Johnson explained that Fletcher was well known for helping people. “If she was gonna leave at noon to go to a volleyball match, she would bake chocolate chip cookies from scratch for her officials.”

Fletcher taught physical education and health at Lanier Junior High for decades, Johnson said.

Fletcher also had an “attack cat” named Smokey and a 22-year-old cat named Buffalo Bob, her friend said. Fletcher also would spay, neuter and feed the stray cats she’d find in the neighborhood.

“It’s very tragic, none of us can believe it, none of us,” Johnson said of her friend’s death.

Johnson explained that people who didn’t know Fletcher were so saddened to hear about the hit-and-run, that they set up a candle memorial where she died. Johnson and Fletcher’s friends are very grateful for the kindness of these strangers.

For Linda’s sake, Johnson is hoping the person behind the hit-and-run comes forward.

“She would expect them to man-up or woman-up and do the right thing,” Johnson said. “She wouldn’t want them to sit in prison, but she would expect that there would be some consequence.”

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