St. Louis County man sentenced in hit-and-run crash that killed teen

A St. Louis County man was sentenced Friday to charges stemming from a 2022 crash that killed a teenager crossing a street near a custard shop in south St. Louis.

Jacob Adler, 27, pleaded guilty in St. Louis Circuit Court to felony counts of leaving the scene of a fatal crash and evidence tampering.

Adler received a five-year term for leaving the scene and a concurrent four-year term for evidence tampering. He was sentenced under a state law (Sec. 559.115) that allows him to serve four months of “shock time” in prison before he’s eligible for release on probation. The Missouri Department of Corrections will assess Adler toward the end of 120 days and recommend if he should be released.

Adler, who had no prior criminal history, admitted driving off in a pickup truck on July 29, 2022, after hitting 17-year-old Matthew Nikolai as the teen crossed the 6700 block of Chippewa Street toward Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. The teen died from his injuries.

According to charges, surveillance video recorded Adler parked his truck nearby after hitting Nikolai, walked back to the scene, returned to his truck and drove off. Charges said he brought took his truck in for repairs the next day and that a shop manager recognized him and alerted police.

Several of Nikolai’s relatives spoke in court, expressing their grief and calling Adler a coward.

“He has utterly destroyed our family,” Nikolai’s mother Maggie Nikolai said of Adler. “We will never be the same.”

In court Friday, Adler said he lives with shame and regret for his actions.

“Just know that I’m truly sorry for the pain that I’ve caused,” he said.

St. Louis Circuit Judge John Bird accepted Adler’s guilty pleas and followed terms of the plea agreement. Bird told a full courtroom that he understands “justice is not always exact and that it’s certainly approximated in this case.” He said he received multiple letters in support of Adler’s character but told him Adler’s decision to leave the scene and have his truck repaired compounded a tragedy. Bird reminded Adler of the seriousness of the charges and said that any violation of probation would not be met with leniency.

“This is something that you did and you’re going to have to live with it,” Bird told Adler.

Adler's case number is 2222-CR01307-01.