Panhandler near Charlotte interstate ramp killed by suspected drunk driver

Panhandling around Charlotte interstates has become a common problem, including some who stand in the median of overpass lanes.
Panhandling around Charlotte interstates has become a common problem, including some who stand in the median of overpass lanes.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police believe the pedestrian killed early Friday on the Brookshire Boulevard near Interstate 85 was panhandling at the time of his death.

Nefertiti Carial Foust, 53, was pronounced dead at the scene by Medic, police said. He was struck near the median, which is a popular spot for panhandlers seeking cash from motorists along interstates 85 and 77 in Charlotte.

North Carolina court records show Foust was found guilty seven times of soliciting or begging for money.

The driver, Donivan Jarrett Winters, 25, of Gastonia, has been charged with driving while impaired, felony death by vehicle and hit and run, police said. Jail records also show he was charged with resisting an officer.

Investigators say a sign was recovered at the scene that read: “Hungry. Need Food.”

However, it was unclear whether Foust was actually homeless. Court records show he often claimed to live in a neighborhood off Brookshire Boulevard near Hovis Road. And a Charlotte database system of people who’ve used the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte and Room in the Inn shelter program did not show Foust had been a client, officials said.

Donivan Winters Mecklenburg County Jail

The incident happened at about 3 a.m. Friday. Officers said they arrived to find Foust lying in the roadway and his sign nearby.

A preliminary investigation found that the suspect’s vehicle, a 2006 Ford F-150, was traveling northwest on Brookshire Boulevard when it struck Foust near the median, officials said. The vehicle then left the scene, police said.

Nefertiti Foust

It’s the second time in the past 12 months that someone has died panhandling on one of Charlotte’s busy interstate ramps near uptown.

In August of 2016, the Observer reported a man died panhandling on the Interstate 77 southbound ramp onto Nations Ford Road.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol said the man was in the middle of the two left turn lanes when his pants got caught by a truck hauler. The man was dragged beneath the hauler and run over by its tires, according to a trooper at the scene. The truck driver, who was hauling wood, had no idea he’d run over the man, the trooper said.

Panhandling is a growing problem in Charlotte’s uptown area, prompting complaints from civic leaders.

The Observer’s news partner, WBTV, reported in the Spring that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police had conducted three undercover panhandling operations since January. Police told WBTV they believe uptown panhandlers are primarily homeless, and also suffer from a dual diagnosis of either substance abuse or mental health issues.