Formal charges now assert that the driver of the vehicle which killed two Amish children in Minnesota last autumn was not in fact the woman – Sarah Petersen – who claimed responsibility.
According to new charges, the driver was her twin sister Samantha Petersen, as suspected at the time. Drug tests have also confirmed that Samantha had several drugs in her system at the time of the crash, including methamphetamine.
The crash, which occurred September 25 in Fillmore County, Minnesota, caused the deaths of Irma (11) and Wilma (7) Miller as they were riding in the family buggy to school. A brother and sister were hospitalized with injuries but survived.
Samantha Petersen now faces 21 criminal charges, including multiple counts of criminal vehicular homicide, criminal vehicular operation, driving while under the influence, careless driving and speeding. Her sister Sarah has not (yet?) been charged with anything.
Evidence That Samantha Petersen Was Driving – And Impaired
Here is some of the police work and evidence which led to the charges (via fox9.com):
Deputies reviewed 911 calls from the crash. A call matching Samantha’s number came in at 8:25 a.m., with charges noting the person on the phone was difficult to understand because she was “emotional and upset.” At one point during the call, she can be heard saying, “I didn’t see them coming up over the hill.”
Investigators executed a search warrant at Samantha’s home on Sept. 26, 2023…During the search, deputies found Samantha inside the home. Samantha turned her phone over to investigators and provided a blood sample, per the search warrant. The results of the blood sample came back on Oct. 3, 2023, which showed the presence of methamphetamine, amphetamine and Delta-9 THC.
A school social worker, on Sept. 27, 2023, spoke with Sarah’s 13-year-old daughter, who said, “My mom wasn’t the one that was driving,” and she drove to the scene of the crash after the crash.
In addition to that, Samantha apparently told a co-worker that she had killed two Amish children while high on meth. There is also this:
Investigators reviewed searches on Samantha’s phone and found she looked up, “What happens if you get in an accident with an Amish buggy and kill two people,” “How to lock an iPhone cops have,” and “If you hit a buggy and kill two people are you going to prison?” and similar searches.
At the time, I speculated that the presence of drugs in her system, and her prior arrest record, would explain why her twin would try to step in and take the blame. But still I wondered why someone, even a close sibling, would be willing to take on blame for actions that could potentially lead to a lengthy prison sentence. This might further explain it:
The district store manager told investigators they believed Sarah would take the fall for Samantha because Samantha took care of Sarah’s children while Sarah was in prison, and now she feels like she needs to help Samantha.
Will the Millers get their apology now?
About a month after the crash, the children’s father Menno spoke with a local news station:
“Do we blame somebody?” Menno asks himself. “Yes and no. I mean, we struggle with that.” The Millers, it’s explained in the above video, aren’t focused so much on justice, but would like an apology – from whomever was behind the wheel. “That’d go a long ways,” says Menno. “Yes it would.”
The Miller family had also reached out to invite Sarah to the wake and funeral. Neither sister attended and there is no indication that the Millers ever received that apology. But perhaps they will, now that the truth seems to be coming to light backed by what appears to be a pile of evidence.
Update – February 8 Press Conference
Earlier this afternoon, Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge gave updates on the case at a press conference (viewable below). The first question he fielded was about the appearance of the sisters and if they are in fact identical twins (answer: yes).
The questioner (I believe it is KTTC’s Brock Bergey, who did the story and visit with the girls’ father Menno Miller) then notes that no photos have been made available (which dovetails with the fact that no arrests have been made yet). When asked why no arrests have been made, Sheriff DeGeorge explains that essentially they need to be thorough to assure a successful prosecution of the case.
Somewhat confusingly, DeGeorge also explains that the court felt that the did not meet the standard for issuing an arrest warrant. This surprised me (of course as a lay person, not a legal mind) based on all the evidence (some of which is listed above). Essentially it sounds like they want to be sure their i’s are dotted and t’s crossed before taking things to prosecution, to ensure the nightmare scenario of a guilty person going free does not happen.
Among several other questions, the sheriff is also asked how often he sees family members of friends attempt to take blame for someone else’s crime. It’s “very rare” he says. There is also what I believe to be one piece of new information – both sisters have in fact been charged at this point. View the eight minute press conference here (via KTTC):
Update #2 – Photos & Charges for Second Twin
A photo has been published showing the two sisters side-by-side. Sarah Petersen, the sister who authorities allege tried to take the blame, is on the left in the photo below, and Samantha Jo Petersen is on the right.
According to news station KAAL, Sarah Petersen has been charged with “four counts of taking responsibility for criminal vehicular homicide, four counts of aiding an offender who committed criminal vehicular homicide, four counts of taking responsibility for criminal vehicular operation, and four counts of aiding an offender who committed criminal vehicular operation for a total of 16 felonies.”