Lancaster

Woman charged in crash deaths of 2 Warwick students

LITITZ, Pa. (WHTM) - A Mount Joy woman has been charged with third-degree murder and related counts for a crash that killed two Warwick High School students.

Debra Slaymaker-Walker caused the deaths with malice after failing to yield to officers, failing to stop after striking a loaded school bus, and driving three times the speed limit past the high school after dismissal, Lititz police wrote in a criminal complaint.

Slaymaker-Walker, 63, faces two counts each of third-degree murder and homicide by vehicle. She additionally is charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, aggravated assault by vehicle, reckless endangerment, fleeing and eluding, and multiple traffic violations.

According to the complaint, Slaymaker-Walker was driving a black 2016 Kia Sportage that became airborne and overturned on its roof after striking the back of a 2013 Chevrolet Sonic containing three Warwick students.

Sixteen-year-olds Jack Nicholson and Meghan Keeney, both Warwick juniors, died after the October 26 crash in the 200 block of West Orange Street, a short distance from the high school. A third student in their car was seriously injured.

About seven minutes before the crash and about two miles away, police had responded to multiple reports of a slow-moving reckless driver who was "all over the road." A police officer activated lights and sirens, but Slaymaker-Walker accelerated and refused to stop, according to the complaint.

A pursuit was ended for safety reasons.

Police said Slaymaker-Walker struck the back of a school bus with students on Route 772 in Warwick Township and did not stop before traveling into Lititz. No one was injured.

As she approached the high school, authorities said Slaymaker-Walker took evasive action to avoid a Lititz police vehicle that was responding to the school bus crash.

She then passed the high school at a high rate of speed, minutes after dismissal, and crashed as she tried to go around a stopped line of vehicles.

Eight vehicles were involved in the collision. A total of four people were injured, including Slaymaker-Walker.

Police said a reconstruction showed Slaymaker-Walker was driving 73 to 77 mph and steered toward the Chevy Sonic just before impact. The posted speed limit is 25 mph, and there was no evidence she applied her brakes when she encountered the stopped traffic.

A witness told police that around the time of the reckless driving reports, she encountered Slaymaker-Walker on Route 772. The witness said Slaymaker-Walker was stopped, causing traffic to back up behind her, and did not respond when the witness knocked on her window and yelled.

The district attorney's office said Slaymaker-Walker sustained very serious injuries in the crash and remains at an undisclosed medical facility. She will be arrested and arraigned after she has been medically cleared for release.

Police wrote in the complaint that they tried to interview Slaymaker-Walker on Nov. 5 and Nov. 20, but she claimed to have no recollection of the crash.

She is not charged with DUI.

“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. “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.”


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