Which Twin Was Driving? Questions Over Crash That Killed Amish Girls

The case of an SUV-buggy crash which claimed the lives of two Amish children several weeks ago has taken a strange turn – from tragedy to something potentially criminal.

Police now suspect that twin sisters, one of whom was believed to be driving the SUV, were not being honest about what exactly happened the morning the Amish girls lost their lives.

This crash happened in Fillmore County, Minnesota. It should be noted this is different from the New York accident which also claimed two Amish children’s lives – just a few days prior to this one. From the Minnesota Star-Tribune:

Law enforcement says it has “true and accurate” evidence that a woman lied when she told a southern Minnesota sheriff’s deputy that she — not her twin sister — was driving the SUV that hit an Amish family’s buggy last month and killed two of four children in the horse-drawn vehicle.

Suspicions that the 35-year-old identical twins plotted to conceal the real identity of who caused the Sept. 25 crash southeast of Stewartville are outlined in search warrant affidavits filed last week. A Fillmore County sheriff’s investigator won a judge’s permission to collect physical evidence toward determining who was driving.

More details on the accident:

The crash involving the Miller family’s buggy occurred shortly before 8:30 a.m. on southbound County Road 1, DeGeorge said. Killed were Wilma, 7, and Irma, 11. Hospitalized in Rochester for treatment were Allan, 9, and Rose, 13. The four children were riding to school at the time of the crash, with Rose holding the reins, a family friend said.

A  photo of the children. Irma and Wilma are pictured on the right:

Photo: Jamie Meyeraan

Suspicions quickly arose after the collision:

One day after the collision, the sheriff’s office issued a news release saying that Sarah Beth Petersen of nearby Spring Valley struck the buggy from behind.

But within days, the affidavits reveal, law enforcement began suspecting that Petersen was not the driver, but that it was her sister, Samantha Jo Petersen, based on the women’s conversations, investigator interviews, a change of clothing, and incriminating text messages.

If true, this was apparently not the first time the twins have done this:

Court records show Sarah Petersen was convicted in 2017 for giving her twin’s name to a Fillmore County sheriff’s deputy who pulled her over for driving erratically. The deputy was told soon after the stop by a fellow deputy that Sarah Petersen “has given Samantha’s name in past interactions with law enforcement.”

Why swap responsibility?

This leads to the question of why, if this is true, the twin sisters would attempt to swap responsibility for the crash?

At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s a pretty big deal to take responsibility for operating a vehicle which caused the deaths of two children. You’d have to be doing this to protect the other person, in this case a close family member.

The first thing that comes to mind is that the one driving perhaps has a past criminal record. Any charges in that case may carry a heavier penalty for the twin with the record (again this is speculation).

But what makes me question that idea is the fact that Sarah Beth Petersen, the one who took responsibility for driving (but according to police actually wasn’t driving), in fact has a pretty lengthy record herself:

Minnesota court records show Petersen has been convicted at least five times for driving after her license was revoked, once for driving with a suspended license and once for driving under the influence of amphetamine and methamphetamine.

She’s also been convicted of speeding twice, once for going 87 miles per hour in a 70 zone and also for traveling 77 mph in a 65 zone.

So that makes me scratch my head, unless of course her sister has a significantly worse record.

Another possibility is that the actual driver was impaired at the time of the crash. And looking back at previous coverage, it seems that is where things are pointing:

Ongoing police investigation has suggested that it was not Sarah, but in fact Samantha who was the driver involved the in crash, and who was potentially impaired.

Among the evidence that supports that conclusion, on Sept. 26, law enforcement spoke to a coworker of the sisters who said that Samantha had admitted to being the driver at the crash. Samantha told the coworker that she was on methamphetamine and she had killed two Amish children after crashing into their buggy.

“I [——] up. I just killed two Amish people,” Samantha Jo Petersen allegedly told the coworker.

Phone records also point to Samantha as the driver. The phone number used to call 911 is the same number that Samantha provided to law enforcement at the scene.

A search warrant for a blood draw and a full set of fingerprints for Samantha was requested and granted by a judge on Sept. 26.

So if true, here we have yet another case of Amish children killed or injured by impaired drivers.

Update on the girls’ family

The story also provides an update on the family of the little girls. This community is in Fillmore County, but it’s not the better-known Harmony Swartzentruber group. This would be a more progressive church:

The family of Menno and Sara Miller live east of Stewartville, about 12 miles south of Rochester, where they continue to raise their six surviving children, ages 16 to a son born late last summer. The father helps train draft horses for the Bar M ranch near Windom in southwestern Minnesota.

Jamie Meyeraan, who helps run the ranch and whose family has been close to the Millers for many years, said “it’s really awesome people are being so generous” with their more than $88,000 in donations to an online campaign on behalf of a family that abides by its faith and does not have insurance.

“Every time I saw [the Miller children],” she said, “I saw nothing but smiles.”

If you’d like to donate to the fundraiser supporting this family, you can do that here.

Go Fund Me page for the Menno Miller family

A bad month for Amish on the road

As mentioned above, the past weeks have seemed to be particularly bad for buggy crashes. In addition to the four Amish children who lost their lives in New York and Minnesota, another Amish child, just three years old, was killed in Wisconsin, and a Missouri woman died after the buggy she was in was rear-ended. Other crashes causing injuries occurred in states including Maine and Missouri.

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    1. Alberta Wells

      So disgusted

      This is just so sad..I can’t believe the age of the twins, 35…I wonder if they have children..How would they feel if someone was drinking and hit their kids.. And not to be honest and cover up for the other..That is really disgusting..I think the system needs to go a bit stiffer on these drunks instead of a slap on the wrist..I feel so bad for the Amish family..And about these twins that keep covering up for each other, and the cops are famiar with them..Maybe they should take their print everytime they have issues with them..Maybe that should be their only ID for everything..Just so sad..

    2. K.D.

      Fillmore County buggy crash

      I’m from MN but live in AZ. I am heartbroken having read this
      article. While I am angry with the Peterson twins, why on Earth
      haven’t these women been sent to prison? They’ve proven time
      and again that they use drugs AND continue to drive? I don’t know
      who I am more upset with: the sisters or the system. How many
      more must die at the hands of these horrible people?!

    3. Accidents lately

      There was an 18 year old trampled by his work horses in the field earlier this summer in Drumore/Quarryville Area of Southern Lancaster County Pa and 2 toddlers in the same area run over at their homes, 1 from a wagon 1 from a skid steer. I can think of at least one more I heard mention of, maybe 2 this summer that claimed the lives of Amish around where I live. Very sad, always breaks my heart to hear.

      1. G D E

        Southern Lancaster County, PA

        I just took out the daudy of the young man / older teenage boy on Pickadilly Hill Rd in Eden Township. He no sooner lost his grandson & then he loses his sister & brother in law 8 days later from being rear ended in their buggy by an illegal with an expired registration & flying down the road at a extremely high rate of speed on a Sunday morning……just mowed them down. I have gotten so sick about hearing of Amish people killed on the road by out of control drivers. People need to go to jail for these outrageous acts.

    4. Al in Ky

      Thanks for sharing this. I had read an initial news report soon after the accident happened, but did not know of these recently released details. Very sad and tragic. I’m familiar with the area, having been raised only about 20 miles from where the accident happened. I’m thinking the Miller family is part of what’s known as the Spring Valley Amish settlement, which is of the Buchanan County, Iowa affiliation and was begun in 2019.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Interesting Al, thanks.

    5. J.O.B.

      These 2 never should have been allowed to own a car or step near one. With that history, you’re done driving. Never again. Sadly, laws are way too weak. It was only a matter of time with these two.

      And to lie? Seriously?

    6. Martha Cable

      Meth impaired?

      So her just having to be high, took the lives of two children. I like the first comment, how would she feel if it was her children? A just sentence would be prison and a permanent loss of their drivers licenses. THIRTY FIVE year olds and one is doing METH? No excuse. But that said, it seems everyone is in a huge rush to get where they are going and would just as soon run you over or push you off the road to get to their destination 5 seconds quicker. One tailgated me in my pickup and flew past me and she had two children in her mini van.

    7. Liz Bourgeois

      Amish accident

      I read this article yesterday and my heart was broken for the family and the community. Those precious, beautiful children killed because some irresponsible person with a drug problem and no common decency chose to drive impaired. That choice ended the lives of two little girls, injured two more in the family, and forever changed the makeup of that family forever. To add insult to injury, they lied, outright lied! Both of those women should have lost their licenses long ago and been sent to jail. Now, because for whatever reason, they were let off to kill. Nothing will bring those babies back but something must be done to stop these women from killing someone else! Heartbreaking…

      1. Erik Wesner

        It’s very sad. A completely needless tragedy. I’m surprised someone can still have a license with that many violations. And that’s referring to the twin who allegedly in fact wasn’t driving.


      This will happen more frequently as the Amish settle into new areas and expect everyone else to adapt to their buggy’s/way of life.
      I dislike like dodging the slow moving (some unmarked) buggy’s around my area which has become infested with horse drawn carriages over the last decade and a half. The amount of horse excrement that now litters our roads and the damage from steel wheels/steel shoes really upsets a lot of our long term rural residents as well. For decades I NEVER, EVER had to worry coming over a hill or around a corner and confronting a trail of fresh road apple on my MOTORCYCLE! SPLAT – SLIPPERY!!! All those years I spent milking cows and being DAMN careful that my manure spreader soup pan did not dribble or the sheriff paid me a visit now pales in comparison to the DAILY amount of HORSE crap on our roads now.
      BTW: I was at the local gun shop yesterday talking to a salesman about how many Amish are buying NVG scopes. Please explain the doctrine: People are confused.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Sounds like a hunting scope. Many Amish hunt. This goes into it: https://amishamerica.com/do-amish-hunt/

    9. J.O.B.

      Night vision goggles can be used for hunting at night. Most of the night vision goggles are bought by non-Amish. I’d be more concerned about that. Plus younger Amish sometimes are allowed to use different technology since they may not yet baptized and members of the Church.

      As for the horse manure, car drivers are more dangerous with their speeding, driving recklessly, drunk , cell phone, and on drugs. The story above clearly shows this.

      The roads are to be shared. They are not just for cars. The sense of entitlement many car drivers have is disturbing.