‘Their Lives Will Never be The Same’: 18-Year-Old Charged After Woman Killed, Others Injured in Rollover Crash

A file photo shows a crime scene blocked off by the Chicago Police Department. (WTTW News)A file photo shows a crime scene blocked off by the Chicago Police Department. (WTTW News)

An 18-year-old was allegedly trying to skip out on paying a locksmith who’d helped him unlock his car when he slammed into an SUV carrying seven family members, killing a 78-year-old grandmother and injuring her husband, three grandchildren and their parents, prosecutors said Thursday.

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Kurell Purnell, 18, was allegedly driving at more than twice the posted speed limit seconds before prosecutors say he slammed into a Kia Sorrento carrying Zainab Subhoh, 78, and six of her family members Tuesday night in Chicago’s North Park neighborhood.

Purnell has since been charged with reckless homicide and three felony counts of aggravated reckless driving. Cook County Judge Ankur Srivastava set the teen’s bond at $30,000 during a hearing Thursday, meaning Purnell must pay $3,000 to be released from custody.

“Their lives will never be the same,” Srivastava said of the victims as he set bond. “Those lives are never gonna be the same because of what you did.”

According to Assistant State’s Attorney Anne McCord Rodgers, Purnell had gone to a grocery store Tuesday in Skokie and contacted a locksmith after realizing he’d locked his keys inside his vehicle.

The locksmith came to the store and was able to open Purnell’s car, but Purnell said he’d have to drive to an ATM in order to get money to pay him, according to McCord Rodgers. The two men each got in their separate vehicles, with the locksmith following Purnell, but instead of going to an ATM, Purnell allegedly tried to speed away.

With the locksmith in pursuit, Purnell blew through one stop sign and approached the intersection of Kimball and Peterson avenues at around 65 mph, McCord Rodgers said. There, he allegedly ignored a red light and slammed into the Kia Sorrento carrying Subhoh and her family.

The Sorrento rolled over and collided with a traffic pole, while Purnell’s vehicle spun around and came to a stop.

Subhoh, who had been sitting in the front passenger seat of the Sorrento, died of blunt force injuries from the crash, McCord Rodgers said. Her 81-year-old husband suffered multiple broken bones and a brain bleed and remains in an intensive care unit, while two other adults in the SUV — a 36-year-old woman and a 46-year-old man — also suffered broken bones.

Three children — ages 16, 10 and 3 — were also hospitalized, but suffered no significant injuries, according to McCord Rodgers.

Purnell admitted that he was the driver that struck the SUV, but told authorities he had the right-of-way, prosecutors said. But McCord Rodgers said surveillance footage from local businesses shows the Sorrento “clearly” had the green light.

During Thursday’s hearing, McCord Rodgers said data from Purnell’s vehicle showed it was traveling at 65 mph five seconds before the crash and 52 mph one second before the crash, in an area where the posted speed limit is 30 mph.

Purnell has no criminal or traffic background and does possess a valid driver's license. His public defender argued that Purnell was being chased by the locksmith, but Srivastava countered that — based on the allegations — Purnell was in the process of committing another crime after refusing to pay the locksmith.

“I know your attorney is characterizing it as (the locksmith is) chasing you,” he said. “I think another way to characterize it would be that you are speeding to get away from him so you don’t have to pay what you owe him.”

If Purnell is able to post bail, he will not be allowed to drive a vehicle while his case remains active. He is scheduled to return to court for a hearing April 11.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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