Highway Patrol: Driver who struck and killed woman in her yard had fallen asleep

The scene of a fatal accident in Concord.
The scene of a fatal accident in Concord. WBTV

A motorist fell asleep at the wheel before his vehicle struck and killed a woman in her Cabarrus County yard Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

Evelyn Tarlton, 74, was gardening when a vehicle driven by a 26-year-old veered off two-lane N.C. 200, a State Highway Patrol trooper told Observer news partner WBTV. The vehicle then smashed into the carport of another home and stopped.

Troopers were scheduled to consult with the Cabarrus County District Attorney’s office Thursday afternoon on possible charges, WSOC-TV reported.

A trooper told WBTV that Tarlton warned her husband, who was gardening with her, to get out of the way of the vehicle. Tarlton’s warning saved her husband’s life, Trooper A.L. Green told the station.

Neighbor Fran Duggan fought tears remembering her neighbor and friend of 23 years on Thursday.

“She was a wife, a mother and a grandmother, and everybody loved her,” Duggan told the Observer.

When Duggan’s husband died in 2008, Tarlton constantly checked on her.

“‘How are you doing?’” Duggan said Tarlton asked. “‘Are you OK? Are you holding up?’”

Duggan, 72, was shopping at a Sam’s Club at the time of the wreck. “It happened an hour before I got home,” she said.

When she learned what happened, “it was like somebody threw a bucket of water in my face,” Duggan said.

Duggan saw her friend for the last time as she left her driveway to shop. Tarlton was out by her mailbox. “I tooted the horn and waved, and she waved back to me,” Duggan said.

“She was the finest, most wonderful person you’d want to know,” Duggan said. “She was the best neighbor anyone could ask for. She was kind, sweet, cheerful. She had a stroke several years ago and came back from that. She was the salt of the earth.”

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak