After a fatal Amish buggy crash identical twin sisters traded places - and blame for the crime, sheriff says
FILLMORE COUNTY, MINNESOTA -- A 35-year-old southeastern Minnesota woman faces over a dozen charges for allegedly trying to take the blame for her twin sister in a fatal Amish buggy crash.
Sarah Peterson was charged Wednesday with 16 felonies, including criminal vehicular homicide, criminal vehicular operation and aiding an offender, according to court documents. All 16 charges indicate that Sarah Peterson tried to conceal or take responsibility for her identical twin sister's criminal acts.
Earlier last week, Sarah Peterson's sister, Samantha Peterson, was charged with 21 felonies, including criminal vehicular homicide, criminal vehicular operation, driving under the influence, failure to provide proof of insurance, careless driving and speeding.
Samantha Peterson was allegedly high on meth when she crashed into an Amish buggy last September. There were four children in the buggy. Two of the children, ages 7 and 11, were killed, a 9 -year-old and 13-year-old were hospitalized with serious injuries.
Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge said the fact the sisters are identical twins "added a lot of complexity" to the lengthy investigation at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
"As the days continued beyond that first day where the crash was reported, inconsistencies started to appear in both sisters' stories and in the evidence that the deputies uncovered," DeGeorge said. "Later, it was determined through a series of search warrants, interviews, analysis of different data that in fact Samantha Peterson, Sarah's twin sister, was driving that vehicle."
DeGeorge says the inconsistencies included a review of an interview recording, which uncovered a conversation between the two sisters that indicated that "something might be up." He said another big piece of the investigation was being able to get a search warrant for the sisters' phones.
A search of Samantha Peterson's cellphone revealed a text she sent on Sept. 25 writing, in part, "I hit that Amish buggy and killed two ppl [sic]." She continued, "Made Sarah come there and take the fall for it so I wouldn't go to prison."
"Sarah was on scene a short time before our first deputy arrived," DeGeorge said. "That allowed them to come up with this story where Sarah would take responsibility for the crash and start to mislead the investigation from that point."
DeGeorge says a lot the evidence, including analysis of cell phone data and an advanced crash reconstruction report, took a "very long time" to get processed. He said it was because of this that it took so long for charges to be filed.
Both sisters have criminal histories. Samantha Peterson's convictions include fourth- and third-degree DWI. Sarah Peterson was convicted of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance in 2022 and is currently on parole for that offense.
Samantha Peterson's criminal vehicular homicide charges are more serious than her sister's and each have a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Sarah Peterson's criminal vehicular homicide charges included a maximum sentence of five years.
The sisters have yet to be taken into custody. DeGeorge says the charges did not meet the threshold for an arrest warrant to be ordered by the court. They are charged by summons.