IMPERIAL, MO. (KTVI) – A tragedy may have been averted Wednesday night in Jefferson County after police found a baby who was in the back seat of a car when it was stolen. The nineteen month girl was ditched in a nearby driveway when the suspect discovered she was inside.
That’s what little Destiny Schenk said as we spoke to her mom not long after she had been found by deputies. Danielle Schenk was still in a bit of shock, relieved to have her daughter back after making what she agreed in hindsight was an awful decision. She left Destiny in the car with the heat running while she ran into the Phillips 66 on Old Highway 21 near Imperial to make a purchase.
“Pull up to the gas station, run inside, get a lighter, and my Jeep is gone,” Danielle said. Asked what was going through her mind, she went on, “I couldn’t even tell you.”
Deputies were called. Nearly a dozen converged on the gas station. Meanwhile, about a mile and a half away, a man just getting home from deer hunting saw the suspect in his driveway.
“He saw this individual I just described frantically trying to remove the car seat from the Jeep,” Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Captain Ralph Brown said. “The suspect made some kind of reference to, ‘my heater’s not working,’ finally was able to put the baby down in the driveway, immediately jumped in the Jeep and drove off.”
Word quickly made it back to Danielle Schenk at the gas station.
“The police officer drove me over to the house, and they took all the clothes and the car seat for evidence, and then we got to get her back.”
About two hours later deputies tracked down the suspect and arrested him. Meanwhile, a lesson had been learned about leaving a car running, even for a moment.
“Lesson about leaving any motor vehicle running, especially with a child in it. Don’t do it,” Brown said, pointing out it only takes an instant to steal the car.
As for Schenk, she’s second guessing herself quite a bit right now.
“Oh yeah. I’ll never do that again. No matter how cold it is, I’ll never leave her in the car. That’s for sure.”