Father charged with DUI in Christmas Eve crash that killed his daughter
BY MITCH ARMENTROUT and STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporters December 27, 2013 3:28AM
Lauren Smith, 8, died in a crash Christmas Eve on the South Side. | family photo
Updated: December 27, 2013 3:17PM
A man was ordered held on $350,000 bail Friday for his role in an alleged drunken-driving related Christmas Eve crash on that killed his 8-year-old daughter.
Jeffery Smith, 26, was charged with aggravated DUI leading to an accident or death, in addition to citations for negligent driving, failure to reduce speed and a child restraint violation.
Smith’s blood alcohol level was .137 at the time of the deadly wreck, Cook County prosecutors said.
Late Tuesday night, rescue crews found Smith pinned in a Chevy Impala after it smashed into a tree in the 1000 block of West Garfield Boulevard. The roof of the car was crushed below seat level, fire officials said.
It took more than 40 minutes to extricate Smith from the vehicle, authorities said, and it wasn’t until they were inside that they noticed Lauren Smith, 8, was also pinned inside the car.
The girl, who lived with her father in the 5600 block of South Wolcott Avenue, was taken to University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 12:42 a.m. Wednesday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
An autopsy conducted Wednesday found Lauren died of multiple injuries she suffered in the crash and her death was ruled an accident.
Smith was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition, authorities said. He was still hospitalized early Friday.
Police said the crash was alcohol-related and that Smith was speeding when he hit the tree.
Lorie Hall, Lauren’s grandmother, said she and her daughter -- Lauren’s mother -- were “still in disbelief” over the deadly crash.
Hall said Smith and Lauren were on their way to her house to celebrate Christmas before the wreck.
“They never showed up,” Hall, 51, said. “I had fallen asleep, but I was still dressed and waiting for him to bring her here. We were going to make gingerbread houses.”
Hall said she woke up to a phone call from her 27-year-old daughter Loressa, who told her about the tragedy. The two then rushed to the hospital. Lauren was Loressa Hall’s only child.
Lorie Hall said her daughter went to the hospital Thursday morning to visit Smith.
“He loves his daughter very much, I don’t see him putting her in harm’s way,” Hall said of Smith.
“I don’t know what Loressa is going through because all of my babies are still alive,” Hall said. “I can only imagine what it would be like to have one of your babies taken from you suddenly. She’ll be in mourning for quite a long time.”
Contributing: Ashlee Rezin