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Published: Tuesday, 1/26/2010

Authorities identify woman who died during police chase


Oregon Police have identified the woman who died when her car crashed into a utility pole on South Wheeling Street after an early morning chase with Oregon police that ended in Toledo.

Tonya Smith, 47, of 241 16th St., Apt. 304, was killed when she struck the pole and was thrown from the front seat into another car parked in a driveway about 40 feet away.

Gabrielle Harris, 29, of 713 Dorr St., was a passenger in the pursued vehicle and was arrested by Toledo Police and taken to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center after she fled the car on foot after the crash, police said. A hospital spokesman said she had no information on a person by that name.

Toledo police officer Craig Smith  talks to Valerie Higgins of Toledo, Ohio, after a police chase ended in front of her home. Toledo police officer Craig Smith talks to Valerie Higgins of Toledo, Ohio, after a police chase ended in front of her home.

Ms. Harris was charged with kidnapping, theft, and fleeing and eluding.

The women were chased by Oregon Police about 1 a.m. after being accused of petty theft for shoplifting from the Meijer store at 1725 South Wheeling, Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre said. Oregon Police stopped the chase when the vehicle left city limits, but continued to follow the car.

The front windows of the suspects' car were missing when the vehicle was towed from the scene on Wheeling Street between Consaul and Parnell streets about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Valerie Higgins, who owns the car that was pushed to a 45-degree angle in her driveway when the victim was thrown from her seat, said the crash woke her from sleep.

"I heard this huge sound. It was so loud, I thought the porch had fallen," Ms. Higgins said.

When she looked out her window, Ms. Higgins could see the victim lying face down near the rear passenger wheel of her own car in the driveway. The utility pole the car struck was splintered and crooked. The victim's shoes were lying in the ice-covered street, and the passenger's shoes were on the sidewalk near the car, Ms. Higgins said.

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