Birthday party for Feltonville crash victim

December 26, 2009 6:08:26 PM PST
The outpouring of emotion continued at 3rd and Ansbury in the Feltonville section of Philadelphia, after the crash that killed 3 children and a 22 year old woman. RELATED: Photos from the scene of the deadly incident.

Police say the crash was caused by a man who was speeding away from a crime scene.

That birthday party was held Friday afternoon at the crash scene for Remedy Smith, one of the three children run down there Wednesday night. She would have turned one-year-old.

The other children killed were 6-year-old Aailayah Griffin, and 7-year-old Gina Marie Rosario.

22-year-old Latoya Smith, the mother of Remedy and an aunt to Aailayah, was gravely injured Wednesday night and died Thursday at Einstein Hospital.

Voices heavy with sadness as a chorus of happy birthday drifted skyward from the accident scene.

None were sadder than the voice of Janice Brown.

Friday was also her birthday, a special day she was looking forward to sharing with her granddaughter, Remedy.

Instead she is making funeral plans for her daughter Latoya, and her two grandchildren, Remedy and Aailayah.

Yet she is lifted by an overwhelming outpouring of support.

"Words just can't express what we've been feeling. We've been feeling love coming from everywhere, and we just want to thank everybody for supporting us each day and for their prayers," Brown said.

The families of the victims were surrounded by a circle of prayer, many of them strangers, hand in hand united by their shared sorrow.

Janice Brown says she has made her peace with the two young men who caused so much grief.

Earlier Friday Ivan Rodriguez, 29, was formally arraigned on four counts of murder, robbery, conspiracy and other related offenses Friday morning.

Police say Rodriguez, along with Donta Cradock, 18, were involved in a motorcycle robbery that ended with that horrific crash.

Cradock remains hospitalized at Einstein Medical Center awaiting a possible bedside arraignment.

Smith and others were outside their Feltonville homes on 3rd Street enjoying the weather when the out of control car rammed them.

The chain of events that led to the carnage began at 7:30 Wednesday night in the 5400 of Rising Sun Avenue.

It was there that a 29-year-old man was sitting on his motorcycle when police say the two men, identified by police as Cradock and Rodriguez, got out of a silver Pontiac Grand Am and approached the motorcyclist. Armed with a gun, they robbed him of his motorcycle.

Police say Cradock got back into the Pontiac while Rodriguez got on the stolen motorcycle. Both fled at a high rate of speed toward Roosevelt Boulevard.

At approximately 7:40 p.m. a passerby flagged down a patrol officer on Roosevelt Boulevard. Police say Cradock stopped at a red light at 4th Street and the officer tried to stop him there.

"He got out of his vehicle, he tried to get the individual out of his vehicle. At that point, the Pontiac fled at a high rate of speed," said Capt. James Clark of the Philadelphia Police.

The officer was stuck in traffic, and watched as Cradock's Pontiac turned onto 3rd Street and went out of control.

"He just got into a crash crossing the Boulevard right now," the officer can be heard saying on police radio tape. "Multiple accidents up here. The male just went southbound on 3rd Street. Give me some units. "

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey insists that police were not chasing the suspect before the crash. They released those radio tapes Thursday to prove it.

However, Ramsey says the officer who had been involved in the pursuit would have been justified if he had continued to chase the two suspects -- one on the motorcycle and one in a car -- but he wasn't able to because he was still stuck at the intersection.

When the car crashed, Cradock was ejected from the vehicle. Police say he was armed with a handgun.

Cradock was arrested at the scene and remains hospitalized with non life-threatening injuries.

Police arrested Rodriguez at his house along the 4100 block of N. 8th Street. They say they also recovered four guns at that house.

Cradock has an arrest record going back many years. He has 8 prior offenses - many of them simple and aggravated assaults. Rodriguez has 5 prior offenses, including 3 stolen vehicle charges.

Besides murder, both Cradock and Rodriguez have been charged with the robbery of the motorcycle.

Action News also learned that Cradock should have been in jail when the crash happened.

He was serving time in a juvenile facility for a previous offense and was given a "home pass" on April 15th. He went home, but never came back to jail.

Meanwhile, a memorial grew Thursday near Third and Annsbury streets where the woman and three children died.

Family and friends are trying to come to grips with the tragedy.

In an instant Ted Canada's life changed forever. Canada's 22-year-old daughter, Latoya Smith, and his baby granddaughter, Remedy, were killed.

Wednesday night outside Einstein Hospital Canada spoke with Action News about the death of his granddaughter. "That's all we can do is thank God. Thank God he loaned her to us for the time that he did," said Canada. "I'm gonna remember her as an angel because she was an angel... and the angel has gone home. And one good thing that I can say is she had no reason not to make it in heaven because she had no time to sin."

Mayor Michal Nutter is asking the Philadelphia community to pray for the victims and their families. The mayor and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey both rushed to the scene last night.

They were saddened and outraged. The mayor said, "It is incomprehensible what some of these people are doing out on the streets of this city. They engage in this kind of action. It's senseless."

Commissioner Ramsey followed the mayor's statement by saying, "It's just a tragedy. Again, as the mayor said, it just shows how violent some people are in the city."

Police towed away the striking vehicle Wednesday night.

Even veteran police officers called the crash scene the most horrific they have ever witnessed.

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