A Mount Joy woman is charged with two counts of third-degree murder and related charges for causing a multi-vehicle crash in October that killed two local students and injured other individuals.
Lititz Borough police, with approval from the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, on Thursday charged 63-year-old Debra Slaymaker-Walker regarding the Oct. 26 crash on West Orange Street (Route 772), a short distance from Warwick High School.
Two Warwick students were killed when their vehicle was struck by Slaymaker-Walker’s Kia SUV, after she struck several other vehicles while illegally passing a stopped line of vehicles – just after Warwick students were dismissed for the day.
Slaymaker-Walker is charged with third-degree murder for the deaths of the two students: a boy and girl, each 16. They were traveling in a Chevy Sonic that was struck from behind by the Kia, pushing it into oncoming traffic where it was struck nearly head-on by another vehicle.
The basis of the murder charges is Slaymaker-Walker’s gross disregard of the extreme risk she posed to others by her repeated and sustained reckless driving, and additionally, by traveling at such an extreme speed when numerous other vehicles were in the crash area.
Police determined Slaymaker-Walker was driving between 73 and 77 mph, and steered toward the Chevy Sonic just prior to impact. Additionally, police found nothing to indicate Slaymaker-Walker attempted to brake prior to the collisions. One motorist in the line of traffic reported his truck “shook” as the Kia passed at such an extreme speed.
The area was a posted 25-mph zone.
Prior to the collisions near the high school, Slaymaker-Walker fled from police who attempted to stop her in Warwick Township, about a mile west on Route 772, following 9-1-1 reports that the Kia was travelling erratically and extremely slowly for the roadway.
In that area, Slaymaker-Walker’s Kia struck a school bus full of students and a driver. No one was injured in that crash. Slaymaker-Walker did not stop at the scene.
Slaymaker-Walker is not charged with DUI and investigators are making no statement at this time on motive, or if one exists.
“We are not presenting today a specific theory on her motive or state of mind at the time of the crash,” District Attorney Craig Stedman said Thursday. “We have an enormous amount of information and took much time and precision in determining these to be the appropriate charges. Illustrating specific motive is not relevant or necessary to prove charges as filed.”
“We are following the facts and what we know we can prove,” Stedman added. “And what we can prove is sustained recklessness that led to these tragic deaths.”
Slaymaker-Walker sustained very serious injuries in the crash and is at an undisclosed medical facility. She is unable to operate a vehicle.
Lititz police Sgt. Jared Hahn filed an arrest warrant Thursday morning, with all charges. Slaymaker-Walker will be arrested and arraigned when she is medically cleared for release from the facility.
In all, Slaymaker-Walker is charged with:
- Third-degree murder (two counts)
- Homicide by vehicle (two counts)
- Involuntary manslaughter (two counts)
- Aggravated assault (for a third student, seriously injured, while an occupant of the Chevy Sonic)
- Aggravated assault by vehicle (for that same student)
- Simple assault (for another motorist injured)
- Hit and run (for the crash with the school bus)
- Fleeing police
- Reckless endangerment
- Summary counts of speeding, reckless driving,
She is presumed innocent.
Following is an additional summation of the crash:
There were eight vehicles, including the Kia, involved in the crashes near the high school.
Slaymaker-Walker caused the impacts by striking vehicles while traveling east on West Orange Street. After striking the Chevy containing the students (who were killed), the Kia became airborne and came to rest on its roof.
A few minutes before the crash and about a mile west on Route 772 (which becomes Orange Street in Lititz), police responded to 9-1-1 dispatches for a reckless driver – Slaymaker-Walker was the lone occupant of the Kia. There were multiple reports of the reckless driving which prompted the police dispatch.
In Warwick Township, a Northern Lancaster County Regional police officer activated lights and sirens in attempts to pull over the Kia.
The Kia accelerated east on Route 772. The officer, at directive of his patrol supervisor, immediately ceased attempts to stop the vehicle.
The Kia struck a school bus on Route 772 in Warwick Township before traveling into Lititz. The school bus contained students and a driver; no one was injured. Slaymaker-Walker did not stop to provide information or render aid, instead travelling further east on Route 772.
Before approaching the high school/crash scene, Slaymaker-Walker took evasive action to avoid a Lititz police cruiser that was responding to the school bus crash.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @BrettHambright