(PCM) Delaware State police have identified the victim of a recent hit and run that occurred in North Wilmington on Marsh Rd. near Washington Street Ext. The victims name was Li Yu Zhang and she was struck by a vehicle as she was attempting to cross Marsh Rd. carrying a bunch of shopping bags. While investigators were waiting on a positive identification on the victim there was some speculation that the victim was actually a well-known homeless woman referred to as The Wilmington Bag Lady.
If you are resident of Wilmington, Delaware then you surely know or have at least heard about the woman known only as the Wilmington Bag Lady. The woman has almost become a cultural icon of sorts in our little neck of the woods. She is recognized by being spotted walking all around the New Castle County area carrying tons of plastic shopping bags, wearing nearly all white, and sporting shoes held together by loads of duct tape.
There has been a ton of speculation and rumors over the years about this woman’s background and history as some say she walks for political reasons over a failed manuscript, others claim she is a wealthy aristocrat, while majority claim that she is just plain insane.
The hit and run incident occurred sometime in the overnight hours on December 5th, 2013 and the body of a woman in her 50′s was discovered by a passerby in the morning of December 6, 2013 on the side of Marsh Rd. near Washington St. Extension. Police are still investigating the incident and found several scattered grocery bags near the scene of the accident which is what led them to believe that the body was that of the Wilmington Bag Lady.
You can ask nearly any long-time resident of the Wilmington area about the Wilmington Bag Lady and they are all sure to have some story to tell. She was mostly spotted in areas along Rt. 202, such as the Concord Mall, the Fairfax shopping center, the Acme grocery store, as well as, the Wilmington Public Library. She was also regularly spotted in the Trolley Square area and attending church services at St. Anthony’s parish.
She never asks for hand-outs and will actually become quite insulted if anyone offers her money or new clothing, especially new shoes. I have had my own run-ins with the Wilmington Bag Lady over the years and what always seemed odd to me is that she never gave off the appearance of your stereotypical homeless person, short of the duct tape shoes. She would usually dress all in white and yet never truly appeared dirty, maybe a little unkempt, but just not the image you think of when you think about someone who has been rumored to be homeless for as many years as this woman.
She has been walking the streets of Wilmington for as long as I can remember and attempting to talk with her was always a challenge. I can recall one time in particular about fifteen years ago, myself and a friend were doing some shopping at the Concord Mall and the Wilmington Bag Lady was sitting in the Waldenbooks scribbling something on a paper while scouring the stores’ magazine racks. My friend, who is one of those people who has the uncanny ability to talk with and relate to almost anyone, sat down beside her and asked her questions about what she was working on so diligently. The woman answered that she was working on a manuscript about political and government corruption, but after that her answers made little to no sense leading us to believe that she was also possibly suffering from a form of schizophrenia. She would wander the corridors of the mall constantly saying “Merry Christmas, in July” or something to that extent no matter what time of year it was and often received many strange looks from fellow shoppers during these excursions.
My own mother had a similar run-in with the Wilmington Bag Lady, again at Concord Mall. Mom was on the payphone (yeah, remember those?) and the woman came right up to her mid-conversation and said “He doesn’t love you” quite loudly before walking off mumbling something else that was too muffled for my mother to understand at the time. What was odd, was that my mother was actually having a small tiff with her then husband at the time on the phone, and it was strange that the woman had seemed to sense what was going on with the situation. It was a little eerie to say the least.
There have been plenty of other stories that have popped up on the internet surrounding this woman and her life. It was revealed several years ago that her actual name may be Claire and a post online from AnudderCast as recently as August of this year claims that she was living in an apartment by St. Anthony’s that is paid for by her family, has no money of her own, does indeed suffer from schizophrenia and while the family was trying to get state assistance for her, the state would not step into help so long as she was not a threat to herself or anybody else.
There have been other claims over the years that Claire is a descendant of the famous and incredibly wealthy DuPont family, is filthy rich, and retreats to home every night rather than the streets, but somehow this seems to be the theory that I am buying the least. The woman has created so much buzz in the Delaware over the years that there has even been a Facebook page dedicated to stories about the 202/Wilmington Bag Lady. Many on the Facebook page are expressing their sorrow at the possible loss of this Delaware cultural icon, with some even calling her a revolutionist.
While Claire aka the Wilmington Bag Lady was not the victim of this hit and run incident, we can all hope that justice will be served for Li Yu Zhang and that police will be able to locate the suspects that committed this horrific crime. It looks like the life and times of the Wilmington Bag Lady aka. Claire will continue to remain one of Wilmington, Delawares biggest unsolved mysteries.