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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -
Police in Charlotte are investigating after a missing persons case came to a tragic end when an elderly woman was struck and killed along Interstate 85 late Tuesday night.
The crash happened just before midnight along I-85 southbound near Freedom Drive.
Officers say 76-year-old Shirley Pharr was struck and killed. Pharr, who was in the early stages of dementia according to police, had been reported missing just an hour earlier.
Pharr was last seen leaving her home on Dawnshire Avenue at around 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, after telling neighbors she was going to get her nails done.
Her sons, Michael and Darryl, said her health had been going downhill quickly. The family took shifts looking out for her but couldn't be there every minute.
"We thought we had it covered, but it was just that one split second," said Michael Pharr.
The brothers said she had just had an appointment with a neurologist Tuesday at the hospital.
"All of this came on all of a sudden," said Darryl Pharr.
Shirley Pharr was later spotted by a driver in the center lane, walking into oncoming traffic, before she was struck. The driver reportedly tried to turn around to help, but officials say it was simply too late.
The State Highway Patrol said Pharr was hit by two semi trucks traveling southbound. The drivers told officials Pharr appeared out of nowhere.
They tried to swerve out of the way, but there was just no time.
Pharr's sons said they were praying for the truck drivers, and they don't blame them for what happened. They wanted to thank the drivers for stopping and waiting for police to arrive.
Officials say nothing could have been done to avoid the crash, and no charges will be filed. They also say Pharr was walking along an unlit area of the interstate.
Michael and Darryl think their mom was disoriented when she wound up on the road. She had wandered off before.
Dr. Reza Bolouri at Alzheimer's Memory Center in Charlotte said he isn't surprised Shirley Pharr's dementia seemed to happen suddenly. He says dementia can be present for five to ten years before family members realize what's happening.
"Take them to the doctor. Read up on it. Know the symptoms," said Michael Pharr.
That's exactly what Dr. Bolouri recommends. He said early symptoms involve forgetting names and misplacing things. Then, someone may forget where he or she is, or where home is. Those signs should be taken seriously and reported to a doctor who can advise families about possible treatment.
Now the Pharr brothers are remembering the fun times with their mom, before dementia took its toll.
Michael described her as "fun loving and feisty." Both said she loved her grandchildren very much.
"And she will be missed. Mom, we love you," said Darryl.