A Minnesota woman whose S.U.V. struck a horse and buggy last fall, killing two children and injuring two others, tried to trick the authorities into believing that her twin sister was the driver, according to court documents.
The woman, Samantha Petersen, 35, was charged Monday with 21 counts, including criminal vehicular homicide, driving under the influence of drugs and leaving the scene of the crash in Stewartville, Minn. It was not immediately clear whether she was in custody, or had legal representation. Neither she nor her sister could immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday evening.
Statements Ms. Petersen made imply that she had tried to deceive investigators to avoid going to prison, according to a complaint filed in Fillmore County District Court.
According to the complaint, Ms. Petersen was driving a silver S.U.V. on a rural road about 100 miles southeast of Minneapolis on the morning of Sep. 25 when she hit the buggy, sending it flying into a ditch. Two children, 11 and 7, died of their injuries. A 13-year-old was left with facial injuries, and a 9-year-old with a broken shoulder, internal injuries, concussion and bleeding in his brain, according to the complaint. The buggy’s horse was also killed.
According to the documents, Samantha Petersen said that she had called 911 and then called her sister after the accident.
Eyewitnesses who had been driving on the road told sheriff’s deputies that they had stopped when they noticed the rubble and injured children. One witness said that he had noticed two women, both with blond hair, who looked similar. One wore a black coat, black leggings and sandals; the other, later revealed to be Samantha Petersen, the driver of the silver S.U.V., wore a red Hy-Vee grocery store uniform, footage from the sheriff’s office later showed.
The woman in the black coat, Sarah Petersen, 35, identified herself to a sheriff’s deputy, and claimed she had been driving the silver S.U.V. When asked for her driver’s license, she said it was in a black S.U.V., not the silver one involved in the crash. During an interview in the deputy’s car, she said that, while driving home from a night shift in Rochester, Minn., she had not seen the buggy on the road, and hit it.
The deputy then left the car, but his recorder — which remained on near Ms. Petersen — taped her telling her twin sister that she believed one of the deputies was onto her, according to the complaint. “There’s no way they would ever know the difference between the two of us,” she added, “so they can’t tell.”
But the false story quickly unraveled. An employee at Hy-Vee, where both sisters worked, told investigators they had received a hysterical call from Samantha Petersen on the morning of the crash in which she said she was high on methamphetamines and had killed two Amish children.
She also sent a text message to another person admitting she had killed the children, according to the complaint. She added, “made sarah come there and take the fall for it so i wouldn’t go to prison.” Public records show Samantha Petersen has several prior convictions, including driving under the influence and giving a false name to law enforcement.
Another employee at Hy-Vee told investigators that Sarah Petersen, who had been in prison, might have taken responsibility for the crash out of a belief that she owed her sister for looking after her children in her absence.
A review of searches on Samantha Petersen’s phone later revealed she had looked up: “What happens if you get in an accident with an Amish buggy and kill two people,” and “if you hit a buggy and kill two people are you going to prison?”
The Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office and Fillmore County Attorney could not be reached for comment on Tuesday evening.