FILLMORE COUNTY, Minnesota –
A 35-year-old southeastern Minnesota woman faces more than a dozen charges for allegedly trying to take the blame for her twin sister in a fatal Amish buggy accident.
Sarah Peterson was charged Wednesday with 16 felonies, including criminal vehicular homicide, criminal vehicular operation and assisting a felon, according to court documents. The 16 counts indicate that Sarah Peterson attempted to conceal or take responsibility for the criminal acts of her identical twin sister.
Early 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, reckless driving and excessive of speed.
Samantha Peterson was allegedly high on methamphetamine when she crashed into an Amish buggy last September. Four children were traveling in the car. Two of the children, ages 7 and 11, died, a 9-year-old boy and a 13-year-old boy were hospitalized with serious injuries.
Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge said at a news conference Thursday afternoon that the fact that the sisters are identical twins “added a lot of complexity” to the lengthy investigation.
“As the days passed beyond the first day the accident was reported, inconsistencies began to appear in both sisters’ stories and in the evidence officers discovered,” DeGeorge said. “Later, it was determined through a series of search warrants, interviews and analysis of different data that Samantha Peterson, Sarah’s twin sister, was actually driving that vehicle.”
DeGeorge says the inconsistencies included a review of an interview recording, which uncovered a conversation between the two sisters that indicated “something might be going on.” She said another important part of the investigation was being able to obtain a search warrant for the sisters’ phones.
A search of Samantha Peterson’s cell phone revealed a text message she sent on Sept. 25 that read, in part: “I hit that Amish buggy and killed two people.” [sic].” He continued, “He made Sarah come there and take the blame so I wouldn’t go to prison.”
“Sarah was on scene shortly before our first deputy arrived,” DeGeorge said. “That allowed them to come up with this story where Sarah would take responsibility for the accident and start misleading the investigation from that point on.”
DeGeorge says many of the tests, including analysis of cell phone data and an advanced crash reconstruction report, took “a long time” to process. He said this was why it took so long to file charges.
Both sisters have criminal records. 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 probation for that crime.
Samantha Peterson’s criminal vehicular manslaughter charges are more serious than her sister’s and each carries 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 not yet been arrested. DeGeorge says the charges did not meet the threshold for the court to order an arrest warrant. They are charged by summons.