A 19-year-old man intentionally slammed his car at 100 mph into a guardrail, and then smothered his 17-year-old girlfriend by sitting on her head after learning that she might be pregnant, according to police.
Police filed homicide and other charges last week against Benjamin Daniel Klinger, 19, of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, for the December 4 death of Sammi Heller on an interstate near Manheim.
‘At first glance, this appeared to be simply another tragic vehicle accident,’ Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman told the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era. ‘However, the police worked hand-in-hand with our forensic experts and saw this was far more complicated, sinister and certainly criminal.’
The bizarre and tragic incident unfolded at around 2am on Route 283 in Ralpho Township when police say Klinger rammed his Toyota sedan into a guardrail, and then proceeded to smother his girlfriend.
Heller, a senior at J.P. McCaskey High School, was described in her obituary as athletic and a lover of motorcycles and horses. According to court documents, the 17-year-old and Klinger had a rocky on-again, off-again relationship.
She allegedly told a friend that Klinger previously tried to scare her while driving and that he had threatened to kill them both in a crash.
Another witness told detectives that Heller said that Klinger would push Heller into walls and once pushed her down a set of stairs, police alleged.
Days before the crash, Heller told several people that she was pregnant and Klinger became aware of that. Police would not say whether the 19-year-old was the father, or whether the victim was indeed expecting.
A truck driver who came upon the 2am crash heard Heller hanging outside the window and screaming, ‘Get off of me!’ but was told by 911 operators not to move the crash victims.
When police arrived, Klinger was sitting on top of Heller's head and torso, according to the arrest affidavit.
‘Klinger was observed by the officers to be what appeared as “slipping in and out of consciousness,” because he would close his eyes for several seconds, moan, and then reopen his eyes while continuing to be positioned on top of the victim's head and torso while the victim was face down,’ police wrote.
Based on medical records, investigators later concluded Klinger was pretending to be unconscious.
An autopsy perform of Heller’s body has revealed that the teen died from multiple injuries and asphyxiation.
Dr. Wayne Ross, who performed the autopsy, concluded 'the cause of death is consistent with someone sitting on (Heller).'
Detectives recovered marijuana, cash, a digital scale, a pipe, pills and a black air pistol from the wreckage.
Klinger was also charged with aggravated assault, drug offenses and driving violations.
Separately, he faces a charge of simple assault for allegedly running over Heller's foot in May, and two counts of disseminating explicit sexual materials to a minor for allegedly texting photos and video of Heller.
He had been free on a combined $27,500 bail on those charges, according to court records.
Police also determined that Klinger, who was found outside of the car on the passenger's side, was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the crash and wasn't ejected, which means that he deliberately got out of the car and walked over to Keller.
The incident marks the first time in Lancaster county history that a driver was charged with homicide. Klinger is also the first motorist to be charged with any form of non-vehicular homicide since 1995.