Woman gets 15 years for carjacking SUV with child inside

CHICAGO — A Chicago woman has been sentenced to 15 years for carjacking two vehicles in February 2021, including one with an 8-year-old child inside.

Veronica Harden, 38, avoided the possibility of an attempted murder conviction by pleading guilty last week to aggravated vehicular hijacking with a passenger under 16 years old and aggravated kidnapping of a child under 13 years old.

Judge Ursula Walowski sentenced her to 15 years on each count, to be served concurrently. Harden must serve 85% of the time. Prosecutors dropped eight other charges, including attempted murder, in the plea deal.

In a bench trial last October, Walowski found Harden guilty of a separate hijacking and sentenced her to another 15 years. That sentence will also be served concurrently, according to court records.

Child on board

The first carjacking occurred around 1:25 p.m. on February 6, 2021, after a woman parked her Buick Enclave at Aldi, 3320 West Belmont, according to prosecutors.

The woman was standing nearby when the SUV started backing out of its parking space. She ran to the vehicle and grabbed a door handle. But a heavy-set, pink-haired hijacker kept driving, dragging the woman about 20 feet and running her over as the victim’s 8-year-old sat in the car’s back seat, prosecutors alleged. The woman suffered a broken foot, broken ribs, and a punctured lung.

Harden | IDOC

As the SUV turned a nearby corner, the 8-year-old opened a back door and jumped from the moving car.

Later, surveillance video allegedly showed Harden using one of the woman’s credit cards at a Target store.

Four days after the hijacking, someone driving the stolen Enclave struck bicyclist Alex Betzel on Kimball Avenue near Addison Street.

“She lost a lot of blood, both her lungs were severely bruised and punctured by her ribs, causing them to fill with blood and one to collapse,” Betzel’s girlfriend said in a 2021 GoFundMe post. “She has nine broken ribs, with multiple being completely displaced, a broken cheekbone, and a laceration on her forehead.”

Police found the Buick behind an unoccupied home in the 3100 block of North Christiana on February 19, CWBChicago reported. Investigators said they found property belonging to Harden and the carjacking victim inside the house. But Harden was never charged with the hit-and-run.

Another carjacking

In the second carjacking, Harden allegedly pulled a 64-year-old woman from a vehicle at 4343 North Kedzie around 9:30 p.m. on February 24, 2021.

Prosecutors said the victim had just returned to her car after picking up a prescription at Walgreens when Harden opened the door and ordered her out. When the victim refused, Harden grabbed her by her clothing and threw her out, officials said.

Chicago police officers spotted Harden driving the second car a couple of days later and took her into custody.

Harden’s parole date has not been updated since she pleaded guilty to the new charges last week. Prosecutors said she was a six-time convicted felon at the time of the hijackings. She now has three more.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com