PINELLAS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – Three high school girls are dead after a vehicle they may have stolen sunk in a pond.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said all three had criminal histories which included grand theft auto.
The teens are identified as 16-year-old Dominique Battle, 15-year-old Ashaunti Butler, and 15-year-old Laniya Miller. The owner of the car was giving the girls a ride. When he got out to briefly go into Walmart, they took off.
The Honda was reported stolen in St. Pete around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night.
“We don’t know what the girls did or where they were between about 8:30 last night, when they stole the car and when our Sergeant saw them on Sunset Point Road about 3:30 this morning. All three have criminal history for grand theft auto,” said Sheriff Gualtieri.
Deputies spotted the car running a red light off U.S. 19 onto Gandy Blvd. They followed it to the cemetery, where the girls crashed the vehicle. Authorities jumped in to help, but couldn’t find them in the murky water. It was two hours before a tow truck pulled the vehicle out.
“With the water and the thickness and with the windows being closed, unfortunately it just became a death chamber. They just drowned and they couldn’t get out,” said the Sheriff.
With car thefts on the rise, the sheriff hopes other troubled teens take heed to this tragic story.
“They need to know that there are consequences for their actions. They need to know that you can’t get arrested four and five times in a year in auto theft and get away with it,” said Sheriff Gualtieri. “This is a systemic and complicated problem and unless we do something differently, we’ll continue to see more lives lost.”
Neighbor says this could’ve been prevented
Deloyse Hubbard lives next door to one of the victims. She believes the entire tragedy could have been prevented.
“It’s really sad, though,” Hubbard said. “They shouldn’t have been in a stolen car.”
She believes parents should talk with their kids and tell them that a life of crime isn’t worth it.
“We don’t know where you at if you’re in a stolen car,” Hubbard said. “Nobody know where you at until the police call and let you know what happened.”
She has two kids and seven grandchildren of her own. They’ve stayed on the right side of the law, except for a few times, Hubbard says, when they missed curfew.
“It wasn’t like that when we was coming up,” she remembers. “We would have gotten the beatin’ of our lives if we had done something like that.”