PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) CBS 3 is reporting that a police chase that led to the tragic death of a mother and three children started with a parking ticket.
According to the station, the two suspects, now charged with four murders, lacked the money to retrieve their car, which had been ticketed, booted, and taken away. So they allegedly stole a motorcycle in order to raise the cash.
But police say a witness spotted them and later, when a patrol car came upon a car matching the witness' description at a stop light, the officers flashed their emergency lights and ordered the driver to get out. According to police the car sped off instead.
A mile later, officers found the viscous end to this story, the smoldering wreckage of bent steel and ruined lives.
A mother, Latoya Smith, 22, was gravely injured. Her daughter, Remedy Smith, almost 1, her niece, Alliyah Griffin, 6, and a neighbor, Gina Rosario, 7, lay dead. Remedy Smith was in a baby carriage when she was struck.
Latoya Smith was rushed to Einstein Medical Center in critical condition. She died Thursday morning.
Smith has two other children, 2- and 4-year-old boys, who were staying with relatives and didn't yet know of their mother's death.
Police didn't estimate the car's speed, but said there were no skid marks, indicating the driver never tried to brake. The car jumped the curb with such force that it badly damaged some concrete steps. It became wedged between a house and a pole.
Early reports suggested police were chasing after the car when it crashed, but Philadelphia's police commissioner vehemently denied that on Thursday.
"Did a pursuit take place? The answer is no," police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said during a news conference at police headquarters, pointing to the mug shot of one of two suspects. "The fault belongs to the individual you see here."
Ramsey said the officer would have been justified if he had chased the driver of the car or a second man, who a witness said had earlier jumped out of the car and stolen a motorcycle at gunpoint.
The driver of the car, Donta Cradock, and the man who fled on the motorcycle, Ivan Rodriguez, have been charged with murder, armed robbery, assault and related offenses, police said.
Cradock, 18, and Rodriguez, 20, have long criminal records and already had bench warrants out for their arrests, but police said it wasn't immediately clear for what offenses. Cradock has eight prior arrests on charges including assault, burglary and weapon possession; Rodriguez has five prior arrests on charges including car theft and criminal mischief.
The men were in custody but hadn't been arraigned by Thursday. Authorities said the suspects didn't have lawyers yet.
"I REALLY LOVE YOU"
Sandra Perez, Gina Rosario's grandmother, stood trembling on the front step of her family's home several doors away from the crash scene and held a picture of the little girl in her school uniform taken signing "I really love you" in American Sign Language.
Perez said her daughter — Gina's mother, Tammy Rosario — is deaf.
Felicia Brown, Latoya Smith's aunt, said the two grew up in the same house and were more like sisters.
"She loved to dance. She was funny," Brown said. "She always made me smile when I was down."
Latoya Smith's cousin Tynerra Brown, 16, said Remedy was a happy, healthy baby.
"She almost took her first step," she said. "She didn't even get to have her first step."