Slaymaker-Walker arrives at court

By on January 30, 2019

Preliminary court proceedings got under way Monday for Debra Slaymaker-Walker, the 63-year-old charged with two counts each of third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter and other charges.

District Judge Edward Tobin in Lititz heard the the charges against the Mount Joy mother who remains under house arrest on $1 million unsecured bail and restrictions per Lancaster County bail administration officials.

Slaymaker-Walker is accused of eluding police and driving at high speed and exhibiting erratic behavior before driving down the street in front of Warwick High School, as students dispersed for the day on Friday, Oct. 26. She is charged in the deaths of Warwick High School juniors Jack Nicholson, 16, and Meghan Keeney, 17, who were in a parked vehicle that Slaymaker-Walker is accused of crashing into while driving her 2016 Kia SUV at speeds of between 73-77 miles per hour, police said.

After several weeks of investigation, Lancaster District Attorney Craig Stedman filed charged against Slaymaker-Walker on Dec. 6. According to the police criminal complaint, Slaymaker-Walker also hit several other stopped vehicles including a school bus containing 17 students, and a police car.

Slaymaker-Walker appeared in court in Lititz for the first time Monday.

Debra Slaymaker-Walker

During Monday’s preliminary hearing, Judge Tobin scheduled a formal arraignment for Feb. 22 which will effectively move the case on to the county court level. During a press conference last month, Stedman noted a car driven by Slaymaker-Walker triggered the eight-car pile-up after driving erratically. The district attorney’s office released her name four days after the crash, saying at that time they had been unable to interview her because she was hospitalized in serious condition and “unresponsive.”

The DA deferred Slamaker-Walker’s preliminary hearing because she remained hospitalized and unable to walk. She has no memory of the event and Stedman said “we may never fully know” what happened.

Stedman, who said prosecutors are required to be “a voice for victims,” clarified that 3rd-degree murder is not based on intent but on extreme malice.”

At a preliminary hearing Monday, Assistant District Attorney Jared Hinsey called three police investigators to testify regarding what led to the crash and the devastation it caused on West Orange Street (Route 772), a short distance from Warwick High School in Lititz.

She is presumed innocent.

Testifying Monday were:

• Northern Lancaster County Regional police Officer Alex Good who encountered Slaymaker-Walker’s Kia SUV. She fled his attempt to stop her about a mile west on Route 772. The SUV struck a school bus (no one inside was hurt) and continued into Lititz.

• Lititz police Sgt. Jared Hahn whose cruiser was nearly struck by the SUV as it sped into the borough, not far from the crash site. Sgt. Hahn filed charges.
• Northern Lancaster County Regional police Sgt. Rodney King who performed a forensic reconstruction of the crash and determined the SUV’s speed to be between 73 and 77 mph leading up to the impact. The area was a posted 25-mph zone.

Sergeant King’s investigation also showed the SUV steered toward the Chevy Sonic &tstr; containing the students &tstr; just prior to impact. Police found nothing to indicate Slaymaker-Walker attempted to brake prior to the collisions. The murder charges are based on: Slaymaker-Walker’s gross neglect and disregard of the extreme risk to others 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.

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,

Patrick Burns is news editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 717721-4455 

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