Hopewell Junior High School student killed in Hamilton crash was in stolen car, police say

HAMILTON, Ohio -- A 14-year-old Hopewell Junior High School student killed in a crash Tuesday was riding in a stolen car with her boyfriend, police said.

Authorities said Nicole Denney, of West Chester, died in the crash near the intersection of Mosler and Cornell avenues when the vehicle she was a passenger of struck a tree.

Hamilton Police Sgt. Ed Buns described the crash as horrendous.

"I can tell you I’ve been doing this 35 years -- this is one of the most totally destroyed cars I've ever seen,” Buns said. “The tree came in through the passenger side door."

Investigators said the stolen vehicle, driven by her 16-year-old boyfriend, was a 1994 Toyota Camry.

Authorities said Denney's boyfriend, who has not been identified, was driving about 40 to 50 mph when he lost control and hit a tree at about 1 a.m. Officials said he was driving without a license.

Police are investigating whether the two might have been chased.

Denney died at the scene. Officers said her boyfriend was taken to West Chester Hospital and is cooperating with police.

"Having to tell a 16-year-old that his 14-year-old girlfriend is dead never gets any easier,” Buns said. “You just wonder, ‘Why weren't they home in bed getting ready for school?’ It's senseless."

Investigators said it took firefighters about two hours to remove Denney from the vehicle.

Denney's father, Tim Denney, told WCPO Tuesday he is trying to be strong, but is struggling.

"She loved life. She loved her friends and her family," Tim Denney said. "She loved things that any 14-year-old girl would, like her iPhone 4 and Facebook."

Officials at Denney’s school said grief counselors are on hand for students.

Hopewell Junior Principal Jeff Rouff said students and teachers are devastated.

“She was a hard-working, excellent young student and an important part of our school,” Rouff said. “She was so friendly with every student that she came in contact with."

Denney’s cousin, Dallas Hopkins, said being out on a school night was not something Denney was known for.

"She was a very quiet person,” Hopkins said. “I can't really see her doing this kind of stuff on a school night at 1 o'clock in the morning. It’s just not like her.”

Hopkins said he believes love may have clouded his cousin’s judgment.

"Probably, she was in love,” Hopkins said. “And love makes you do stupid stuff with stupid people."

Visitation for Denney will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 26 at Hodapp Funeral Home at 8815 Cincinnati-Columbus Rd. in West Chester.

The crash is still under investigation.

WCPO Web Editor Jesse Folk contributed to this report.

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