15-year-old girl, her sick dog killed after taking family minivan
BY BETH KRAMER, JAMES SCALZITTI AND DAN ROZEK Sun-Times Media June 21, 2011 11:10AM
Taylor Mae Stinchcomb
Updated: September 29, 2011 12:26AM
When she was 13, Taylor Mae Stinchcomb rescued a Doberman from a shelter.
The dog was her birthday present, and she named him Romulus.
At age 15, when she learned Romulus had cancer and her family was considering putting him down, Taylor apparently tried to rescue him once again.
The distraught teen took the dog — and her family’s minivan without permission — and drove away from her Gurnee home early Tuesday morning, authorities said.
Taylor became too upset to drive, however, and turned the wheel over to a 15-year-old friend who had accompanied her, authorities said.
It’s unclear where the girls were going — or if they even had a plan.
The impulsive, past-midnight rescue had a horrible ending, however, when the second teen lost control on a dangerous stretch of road in Lake County near Wildwood.
The 2003 Dodge minivan left the road, rolled over, hit several trees and then a utility pole. Taylor was pinned in the crumpled minivan and had to be extricated by Grayslake Fire and Rescue.
She was still breathing and talking when paramedics found her, authorities said.
But her multiple internal injuries were too much, and Taylor, who just finished her freshman year at Warren Township High School, died at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.
Her friend, described by police as “distraught and incredibly upset” as she tried to direct emergency crews to the minivan using a passerby’s cell phone, survived the crash and did not need to be hospitalized.
Romulus, the Doberman, was thrown from the minivan and killed.
“She chose him — she chose to rescue him from a shelter,” her older sister Mallorie Holler said.
“This case is absolutely heartbreaking,” Lake County Undersheriff Charles Fagan said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of both girls involved in this incident.”
Speed a factor, sources say
Drugs and alcohol do not appear to have been a factor in the 12:45 a.m. crash on Almond Road, about a quarter mile south of Route 120, authorities said.
But speed appears to have been a factor, sources said.
The speed limit at the site of the crash is 35 miles an hour, but investigators believe the teen driver was speeding at the time of the crash, perhaps as fast as 60 mph, law enforcement sources said.
The driver — who had a learner’s permit but, at age 15, no license — was wearing a seatbelt. But it appeared Taylor wasn’t buckled in when the van rolled over, sources said.
Taylor’s other sister, Amy Stinchcomb, described her younger sister as “very outgoing, very warm.”
She was a good student who played softball for the Warren High Blue Devils.
In addition to her two sisters, she is survived by her brother, Joseph Holler, and her parents Bill and LeeAnn Stinchcomb. Funeral arrangements are pending
“We just lost our 15-year-old sister,” Amy Stinchcomb said. “We have a lot of support. It’s going to be tough, but God’s going to help us get through this.”
Warren Township High was “shocked” with news of Taylor’s death, principal Jeff Brierton said.
“She was a good student and a great kid. She was a good softball player and very much into it,” Brierton said. “We’re all very saddened by this. Our hearts go out to the family and we’re ready to do anything we can to help.”
The stretch of road where the minivan rolled over is hilly — and the site of a number of previous crashes, police said.
“It’s one of those notorious areas of the county where we have a lot of accidents,” Fagan, the county undersheriff, said.
A passerby made the initial 911 call, but was unsure of the exact location. That driver passed her phone to the teen driver, who was able to give the exact location of the crash to emergency operators.
Despite driving without a license and apparently speeding, the surviving teen is unlikely to be charged with anything other than traffic tickets.