Homicide charges filed against Slaymaker-Walker

By on December 12, 2018

Authorities filed formal murder charges against Debra Slaymaker-Walker, 63, who police said crashed into several vehicles on Oct. 26.

Slaymaker-Walker faces third-degree murder charges–filed Dec. 6 by Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman–relating to the deaths of Warwick students Jack R. Nicholson. 16, and Megan Keeney, 17.

A third student, 17-year-old Rylan Beebe, was seriously injured.

The DA on Dec. 6 had deferred Slaymaker-Walker’s preliminary hearing because she remained hospitalized and unable to walk. But she was placed under electronic monitoring &tstr; due to her injuries–at her Mount Joy home by District Judge Edward Tobin who on Tuesday set her bail at $1 million.

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman announced formal charges against Debra Slaymaker-Walker on Dec. 6

Slaymaker-Walker has no memory of the event and Stedman said “we may never fully know” how an eight-vehicle crash evolved into double homicide charges and a horrific scene that day outside Warwick High School on the 200 block of West Orange Street in Lititz. Stedman, who said prosecutors must be “a voice for victims,” clarified that 3rd-degree murder “is not based on intent but on extreme malice.”

“These (charges) are rare in homicide-by-vehicle incidents such as this, but we believe they are appropriate,” he said during a press conference at Lancaster County Courthouse.
Stedman discounted the cause of the accident as a result of medical issues. Investigators determined “a pattern of sustained reckless driving” where Slaymaker-Walker “threaded a needle” to drive “evasive and effective” to avoid police and elevate her Kia to speeds of 73- to 77 mph.

“(It is) not consistent with a medical episode,” Stedman said.

According to the affidavit of probable cause crafted after investigators spent six weeks reconstructing the events leading to the crash in front of Warwick High School:

• Northern Lancaster County Regional Police were dispatched at 3:12 p.m. for a “reckless driver” on Temperance Hill Road near the intersection of West Lexington Road in Penn Township. An officer arrived in the area at 3:17 p.m., located Slaymaker-Walker’s vehicle and activated his vehicle’s lights and siren in an attempt to stop her.

• The officer complied with orders to cease the pursuit at 3:18 p.m. after Slaymaker-Walker failed to yield near the intersection of Temperance Hill and Longenecker roads in Warwick Township.

• Slaymaker-Walker’s Kia hit an occupied school bus at 3:18 p.m. at West Orange Street and Green Acre Road.

• Slaymaker-Walker then took action to avoid striking a Lititz Borough Police car on West Orange Street in front of Lititz Church of the Brethren in Lititz Borough.

According to the affidavit, the Kia at 3:19 p.m. side-swiped a 2002 Toyota Sienna which was stopped in the east-bound lane of West Orange Street and then struck the front-right of a 2000 Ford Mustang which was stopped in the east-bound lane of travel directly in front of the Toyota Sienna. The Kia then struck a 1996 Dodge Neon which was stopped in the east-bound lane of travel directly in front of the Ford Mustang.

“The Kia then struck a 2013 Chevrolet Sonic which was stopped in the east-bound lane of travel directly in front of the Dodge Neon. This impact caused the Kia to overturn, but continue to travel east-bound on its roof. While traveling on its roof, the Kia struck a 2010 Subaru Forester and a 2013 Ford Transit, both of which were stopped in the east-bound lane of travel. The 2013 Chevrolet Sonic was pushed into the west-bound lane of travel where it struck a 2018 Nissan Rogue which was traveling westbound.”

The students killed and injured on Oct. 26 were in the Chevrolet.

Stedman said the evidence is strong and he is “confident we will be able to convict.”

Besides the two counts each of criminal homicide, police charged Slaymaker-Walker with involuntary manslaughter, homicide by vehicle, and other related violations. The DA also discounted vehicle malfunction on Slaymaker-Walker’s Kia as a cause for the crashes.

Debra Slaymaker-Walker
(Photo from gofundme page)

“There was no evidence of any vehicle failure whatsoever, no mechanical defect, there was no evidence of her trying to break before impact,” Stedman said. Stedman acknowledged members of the Lititz Police Department for their work in the investigation.

“I want to credit Lititz Borough for the work they have done in this case,” he said. “It doesn’t get any more emotional than this type of case. I’m certainly impressed with the professionalism as well as the work the school has done as well, in dealing with this set of circumstances.”

Lititz Police Chief Kerry Nye, who attended last Thursday’s press conference with Sergeant Jared Hahn, said the six-week investigation required patience and professionalism.

“We do not go on emotion, we go on facts,” Nye added. “And that’s what we need to do.”

He praised the Warwick School District for its “tremendous job” in assisting students and bringing the community together. He noted that students, staff and other first responders continue to deal with the grieving and healing process.

“I extend my thanks to the Lititz community. I was not surprised by our community; that’s what we do.” Stedman commended the driver’s family, who were “victims in this as well. They didn’t do anything wrong and have been very cooperative.”

Cory Van Brookhoven is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your comments at cvanbrookhoven@lnpnews.com or 717-721-4423.

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