Girl, 8, dead in Christmas Eve rollover crash on South Side

December 25, 2013 (CHICAGO)

He is in the hospital Wednesday night as the little girl's family is left to cope with this Christmas tragedy.

It was a single car crash and police say the vehicle may have been traveling at a fast speed. But Wednesday night, relatives are defending the girl's father.

Lauren Jessica Smith was vibrant and always smiling, the emotional center of a family now grieving on this holiday.

"I just want to wake up and let this all be a dream because she was my only baby," said Loressa Hall, Lauren's mother.

It happened Christmas Eve around 11:15 p.m. in the 1000 block of West Garfield Boulevard.

Relatives say 8-year-old Lauren was riding in the back of a Chevy Impala which was being driven by her father, 26-year-old Jeff Allen Smith.

"Her dad did everything for her, everything for her. And I don't blame him for anything," Hall said.

Police say Smith apparently lost control the car ending up against a tree the roof crushed below seat level.

"They didn't know she was back there for almost 40 minutes," Hall said. "They didn't know she was back there."

Relatives say father and daughter had just left a family gathering.

Police say alcohol and speed may have been a factor in the crash but Lauren's mother says Smith was a good father who would never put his daughter in harm's way.

"For them to say that he was drunk is crazy," she said. "Do not blame him. He took care of her. When he didn't have the money, he still took care of her. He watched over when I went to school. He kept her during the week."

Lauren's family says she was a math whiz who loved to sing, especially in her church choir.

On this Christmas, they're together, sharing stories of the girl they loved.

"She was full of life, full of life. And I loved my baby from the bottom of my heart," said Hall.

Smith is hospitalized in fair condition. Relatives say he underwent surgery Wednesday and likely has not been told of his daughter's death.

No charges have been filed.

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.