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27-year-old Chelmsford native woman killed by alleged drunk driver in California

On Friday night, 27-year-old Rachel Morrison, who was an academic and athletic star at the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro, was killed in a San Diego suburb when she was hit by a driver who was driving under the influence of alcohol and fled the accident spot.

According to Notre Dame’s athletic director, Lisa Zappala, she was training to run the Boston Marathon with her father, with the two of them training on both coasts.
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Morrison’s teachers for 2 biology classes, Sue Turkovicz said, “She was really special”.

She was involved in a hit-and- run accident while she was walking with one of her friend’s in the San Diego suburb of Del Mar. Around 10:15 p.m., the 2 were walking in a crosswalk across a busy thoroughfare a few blocks from the beach. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said that a vehicle ran a stop sign. Morrison’s friend was able to jump out of the way and the vehicle hit Morrison and fled the accident spot.

Morrison was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla where she was pronounced dead.

41-year-old Christopher Stockmeyer was taken into custody by the San Diego Police Department at an apartment complex in nearby La Jolla. He is the registered owner of the vehicle. He was later charged for felony driving under the influence, felony hit-and-run, and vehicular manslaughter, said the sheriff’s department.

The incident is still under investigation.

Zappala said, “She’s just an amazing individual, just very talented. It was somber here today”.

Morrison was a three-sport athlete at NDA and valedictorian of the Class of 2005. She was known for her academic achievements and her athletic talents at NDA.

In the Archdiocese of Boston, she won the prestigious Cardinal Medeiros Scholarship given to an outstanding student from a parochial school, providing her a tuition free education of 4 years at Boston University.
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She was a doctoral student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who first got interested in the subject when she learnt about the collapse of Atlantic cod in the 1990s, she wrote in her academic bio. She also earned a master’s degree in marine biology and was working towards her doctorate while doing dissertation research on how the feeding preferences of coral-reef fish affect their growth rates. She had visited reefs in Belize, Brazil and the Galapagos Islands, among others.

Morrison wrote in her Scripps Institution of Oceanography biography, “All my research is strongly motivated by a practical desire to improve fisheries management”.

Morrison’s world-history teacher, Helen Kay said, “Marine biology became her passion. She was one of those girls that were very involved here, obviously great in academics”.

Julie, her younger sister is also a Notre Dame graduate and Sarah is a junior there. John, his brother went to Notre Dame until 8th grade. Rachel had long wanted to run the Boston Marathon and was training to run it with her father in 2014.

Zappala said, “She was so excited to do this”.

Kay said, Morrison visited Notre Dame a few times just this school year. Her presence is still felt at the school when it comes to recycling. She so badly wanted to help the environment that she’d take recycling home with her prior to the school had its own recycling measures, individuals at the school told.

Turkovicz said, “She was special to all of us”.

According to Zappala, the most important thing is to see how well-rounded Morrison was. She completed the community service and was a member of cross country, spring-track and indoor-track teams all four years.
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She led all 3 teams her senior year. Other than that, she was NDA’s scholar athlete of the year in 2005, vice president of the National Honor Society and a National Merit Commended Scholar to name just a few of her many honors.

Zappala said, “It’s just a tragic, tragic loss. You knew she was going to do great things in life”.

In a statement to NBC 7, Morrison’s academic adviser at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Stuart Sandin called her “a beautiful person, inside and out”. He also said, “Rachel was an explorer at heart, sailing across the Pacific and collecting valuable data as she went. Among her many talents, she was an amazing communicator and editor. We will always keep her in our hearts and miss her dearly”.

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