Charges: Driver in deadly Amish buggy crash was on meth, had her twin sister take the fall

A southeastern Minnesota woman is facing nearly two dozen criminal charges in connection to a crash involving an Amish buggy last fall that killed two children.

Documents filed Monday charge 35-year-old Samantha Jo Petersen, of Kellogg, with eight counts of criminal vehicular homicide, eight counts of criminal vehicular operation, two counts of DWI, and counts of no proof of insurance, careless driving and speeding.

Those charges stem from a crash on County Road 1 in rural Stewartville on Sept. 25.

Four children — ages 7, 9, 11 and 13 — were in the buggy at the time. Seven-year-old Wilma Miller and 11-year-old Irma Miller died from their injuries while their siblings were seriously hurt.

According to a criminal complaint, Petersen’s twin sister claimed responsibility for hitting the buggy when authorities arrived at the scene. However, the first witness at the scene described the driver as a woman wearing a Hy-Vee employee shirt and a bodycam worn by the first deputy at the scene showed that Petersen was the person wearing that shirt until she changed it a short time later.

After authorities talked to Petersen’s twin sister in a squad car, a group of deputies gathered outside to talk but a deputy’s digital recorder in the squad caught the sisters talking. During that conversation, the complaint states that Petersen’s sister said, “I think that one of the guys is on to me but I don’t really care” and “there’s no way they would ever know the difference between the two of us so they can’t tell.”

Additionally, charging documents state that both sisters work at a local Hy-Vee and Samantha told a human resources member that she “just killed two Amish people” and added that she was high on meth. When asked why Samantha’s twin would take the fall for her, the employee replied that it was likely because Samantha took care of her sister’s children while she was in prison and the twin may feel the need to return the favor.

Text messages also showed that Samantha had texted someone who’d messaged her about how sad it was that the young girl in the buggy died and she responded, “i don’t think you realize that i did that,” adding that she made her sister go to the scene and take the fall. Charging documents go on to state that Samantha had used her phone to search, “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?”

Crash reconstruction indicated that the SUV was going 63-71 mph when it hit the buggy. The speed limit in the area is 55 mph.

Records show that Samantha has multiple prior DWIs.

Petersen isn’t in custody and is scheduled to make her first court appearance on March 25. She faces up to 10 years on each criminal vehicular homicide charge plus several years for the other counts.