ST. LOUIS - A teenager is dead and another is in critical condition after police say they crashed a stolen car into a tree.
The accident happened around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 4300 block of N. Euclid, near Calvin Avenue.
Witnesses told officers the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed when the driver lost control and hit a tree. The driver, identified only as a male in his mid-teens, was pronounced dead at the scene.
A male passenger, also in his mid-teens, was taken to an area hospital in critical and unstable condition.
Deneace Quarles had taken the teen who died in the crash under her wing. She'd been trying to keep him on the right path.
"He was a kid that was just lost. He wanted to do the right thing but he just didn't have the foundation to do the right thing," she said.
She was heartbroken, but not surprised, when she heard he'd been driving erratically, crashed a car, and was killed.
"When she said it, I knew it was true. I already knew," said Deneace.
Police say the car he was driving was stolen around 8 a.m. Tuesday in the 4700 block of Margaretta. The owner had reportedly left it running to warm up outside her home.
"It shows how dangerous these thefts can be," said St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson.
Chief Dotson says these types of thefts are on the rise, likely because of this winter's frigid temperatures. This year in St. Louis, thieves have stolen 81 cars left idling. That's 23 percent of all car thefts in the city this year.
"Criminals are opportunistic and so they have the opportunity to steal a car because people are warming it, because it's been colder, so people are taking advantage of that," said Dotson.
Police are still investigating whether the teen driving the car he crashed Tuesday also stole it. Regardless, Denease says his life and his loss are a tragedy.
"All he wanted was to be loved, that's all he ever wanted," said Denease.
In Illinois, there is a state law banning people from leaving their cars running on public property with the keys inside, unattended. In Missouri, it's up to the city or county.