Three Teen Girls Dead After Driving Stolen Car into Pond
The three lived in southern St. Petersburg. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said auto thefts by youths in southern St. Petersburg have become an epidemic affecting the whole county.
ST. PETERSBURG – Three teenaged girls from St. Petersburg died early today (March 31) when they crashed a stolen vehicle into a retention pond at a cemetery, according to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
Dead at the scene were Dominique M. Battle, 16; Ashaunti N. Butler, 15; and Laniya D. Miller, 15. All lived in southern St. Petersburg, deputies said.
Gualtieri said Damien L. Marriott, 35, of St. Petersburg gave the three a ride in his 1990 Honda Accord. He was going to take them to Child’s Park but first stopped at a Walmart in southern St. Petersburg to buy a TV. He left the girls in the car with the engine running and, when he returned, found they had taken the car.
A deputy spotted the vehicle driving eastbound on Sunset Point Road near U.S. 19 in the Clearwater area, the sheriff said. The Honda did not have its headlights on. The deputy was unable to stop them and did not pursue them. The Honda was seen going through a stoplight. Another deputy saw the Honda in the area of U.S. 19 and Ulmerton Road. He confirmed that it had been stolen and followed at a distance in his unmarked car.
The Honda kept going it reached Gandy Boulevard and Frontage Road and turned into the Royal Palm Cemetery, 2600 Gandy Blvd. The Honda drove toward the back of the cemetery and into the pond. Gualtieri said it’s possible the driver thought she could exit onto the highway. A dive team pulled the car out of the water and deputies found the girls inside. Deputies said it’s not clear who was driving the vehicle as the girls appeared to have been tossed around in the vehicle following the crash.
Gualtieri said the three teens had criminal records with charges ranging from burglary to vehicle theft.
Car theft by youths from southern St. Petersburg has reached “epidemic” proportions, Gualtieri said. Although law enforcement officials will continue to fight that type of crime, he said, other ways to combat the problem must be found.
“Solutions need to come deep from within the community. Kids need to know there are consequences. This is a systematic and complex problem,” Gualtieri said. “Three dead teenagers is not acceptable.”
For information about the Pinellas County Sheriff, go to pcsoweb.com.
Photos courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff.
Pinellas Sheriff | Bob Gualtieri | South St. Petersburg | Stolen Car | Dead Teens | Royal Palm Cemetery | TB Reporter
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