14-year-old faces charges of stealing, crashing Jeep on Parkway East

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A 14-year-old boy was critically hurt and faces criminal charges after Penn Hills police said he stole a Jeep, sped away from officers and crashed on the Parkway East Sunday night.

The boy remained hospitalized Monday at UPMC Mercy and will likely be charged with crimes including auto theft, receiving stolen property, fleeing and eluding police, and a string of traffic offenses, including driving without a license, Penn Hills police Chief Howard Burton said.

The chief would not release the boy's name because he is a juvenile.

Penn Hills officers pursued the 2001 Jeep Cherokee after a woman reported it stolen about 6 p.m. from outside her boyfriend's home. She had gone inside and left the keys in the car because she thought her visit would be short. Chief Burton said she was startled when she heard the vehicle start and watched the boy drive it away. The couple did not know the boy.

Officers spotted the Jeep a few minutes later on Rodi Road, heading toward the Parkway East. They tried to stop it, but the boy sped away within a minute after they turned on their lights and sirens. They watched the boy drive erratically onto the parkway but pursued the Jeep for only a few seconds before calling off the chase due to safety concerns, Chief Burton said.

The vehicle rolled over several times at the Churchill interchange, and the boy was thrown from it. The inbound side of the highway was closed for about five hours.

He was alone in the vehicle at the time of the crash. One other motorist's vehicle was struck by debris, state police Trooper Robin Mungo said. She said the boy's injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

In an interview with WPXI-TV Monday morning, the boy's mother faulted the car owner for leaving her keys in the car, saying it was possible he was just joyriding. That brought a response from the car owner, Melissa Leon, who posted a comment on the Post-Gazette website saying the boy's mother needed a "reality check."

She could not be reached for further comment Monday.

Transportation - neigh_east

Sadie Gurman: sgurman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Jon Schmitz contributed.


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