Two boys playing in a car outside the Gompers housing complex in East St. Louis ran over and killed a toddler Saturday afternoon.
One of the boys had taken his mother’s keys without her knowledge and accidentally shifted the car into drive, running over 15-month-old Jay’lah Keith. The toddler was standing at the edge of the front yard when the car began to roll down the driveway onto the street. The boys, ages 11 and 12, jumped out the car to help the girl.
“They panicked,” Sherwin Haywood, who lives in the housing complex, said. “They didn’t know what to do.”
Elverita Graham, Jay’lah Keith’s grandmother, said the toddler, her parents, and three siblings were making their usual Saturday visit when the horrible accident happened. Graham said she was resting on the couch when she heard her granddaughter screaming. Jay’lah’s father, Marseani Keith, brought her inside and called 911.
The two boys were questioned by juvenile detectives, but Police Chief Michael Floore called the tragedy an accident.
Keith’s grandfather Fines Cole Sr. said he felt bad for the boys involved.
“Boys will be boys,” Cole said. “They’re gonna do what they’re gonna do. I feel sorry for the kids. They gotta live with that the rest of their lives.”
Graham also said she didn’t blame the boys.
“It was an accident and I don’t want to see them punished,” Graham said. “They’re young and they’ve got their whole lives ahead of them. I know they didn’t mean to do it. It’s just a horrible situation for everybody.”
During a candlelight vigil Sunday, Jay’luh’s mother, Whitney Cole, recalled her daughter’s sweetness.
“My baby was playful … with her little bow legs running through the house,” she said. “She kept a smile on everybody’s face.” Cole also said Jay’luh would kiss her 3-month-old baby brother “a million times everyday.”
Cole asked the community to pray for the boys, and asked them to take this as a lesson to be more mindful of their children.
“This is an eye opener,” she said. “Watch the babies, we don’t know what they’ll do until it happens.”
Funeral services for Jay’lah Keith are pending. Floore said it is too early to determine if the boys will face criminal charges.
Do you think the boys who ran over Jay’lah Keith should be charged?