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Man held on $350,000 for Christmas Eve crash that killed daughter

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Updated: January 28, 2014 6:19AM

Authorities said alcohol played a role in a South Side crash on Christmas Eve that killed an 8-year-old girl and sent her father, who was driving the car, to the hospital.

Jeff Smith’s blood alcohol level was .137 when he crashed his car into a tree, killing his daughter, Lauren Smith, Cook County prosecutors said at his bond hearing Friday.

Smith, who remained in Stroger Hospital, wasn’t in bond court. He was ordered held in lieu of $350,000 bail.

“He loves his daughter very much, I don’t see him putting her in harm’s way,” Lauren’s grandmother Lorie Hall said Thursday of 26-year-old Smith.

Rescue crews found Lauren pinned in a Chevy Impala after it smashed into a tree late Tuesday night in the 1000 block of West Garfield Boulevard, Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said. The roof of the car was crushed below seat level, Langford said.

It took more than 40 minutes to extricate the driver from the vehicle, authorities said.

The little girl, who lived 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.

Police said Smith was also speeding when he hit the tree.

Hall 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.

“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: Stefano Esposito

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