Man pleads guilty to murder in 2021 hit-and-run spree that killed steakhouse chef

Oct 14, 2023, 10:38 AM | Updated: 11:14 am

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A man has pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in the death of a Philadelphia steakhouse chef prosecutors say he intentionally killed during a drug-fueled, hit-and-run spree that caused injuries and damage in two counties.

Kareem Welton, 43, also pleaded guilty Friday in Montgomery County Court to attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault and robbery of a motor vehicle in the violent predawn 2021 joyride that started in Philadelphia’s Center City and ended 30 miles (48 kilometers) away in neighboring Montgomery County.

Prosecutors dropped a first-degree murder charge in exchange for the plea, which does not include any agreement on sentencing.

Authorities alleged that Welton stole a car left running by a woman in July 2021 and then went to a family friend’s home and stole a 5-year-old poodle, hit two people on a motorcycle and then struck and killed 31-year-old Adriana Moreno-Sanchez as she walked home from her restaurant shift. Authorities said in an affidavit of probable cause that the car hopped the curb and struck Moreno-Sanchez, then made a U-turn and went back onto the sidewalk to hit her a second time. Authorities said Welton briefly stopped at that time to steal a jacket from the injured victim, who died at a hospital.

Authorities said Welton drove off, striking more cars and people, before abandoning the car. He later allegedly tried unsuccessfully to pull another woman from a vehicle before stealing another car blocks away and heading out of the city, hitting a bicyclist on the way. Eventually, he was spotted in Collegeville, and during the ensuing chase authorities allege he deliberately swerved into oncoming traffic to hit and critically injure a jogger. He was arrested after pulling into a Trappe gas station and trying to take a bicycle from a man standing nearby, authorities alleged.

A toxicology screen later indicated that Welton had marijuana and PCP, a powerful hallucinogenic, in his system at the time of the assaults, authorities said.

Both the 3rd-degree murder and attempted murder charges carry maximum sentences of 20 to 40 years in prison. Assistant District Attorney Roderick McCord Fancher III told The (Pottstown) Mercury that he would seek significant prison time including consecutive terms, a sentence “that accounts for each and every victim of this rampage.”

“He brought people’s worst fears of random acts of violence into real life through his actions. Completely innocent people going about their day were seriously affected by him,” Fancher said. Montgomery County authorities, using a state law, prosecuted all charges, including the fatal hit-and-run that occurred in Philadelphia.

A message seeking comment was sent Saturday to the assistant public defender representing Welton.

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Man pleads guilty to murder in 2021 hit-and-run spree that killed steakhouse chef