A 21-year-old driver struggled with his passenger over the steering wheel before driving his truck into a group of Girl Scouts, killing three and one of their mothers, prosecutors in Wisconsin said.
The passenger told authorities he tried to correct the vehicle Saturday when he noticed Colten Treu crossing the center line near Lake Hallie, Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell said Monday.
Treu was “somewhat out of it,” the passenger said, and grabbed the wheel back, drove off the roadway and struck the group, Newell said.
A fourth girl, 10, was injured as the group was participating in a highway cleanup project. She was in stable condition Monday at a hospital.
Police have identified the victims as:
• Jayna S. Kelley, 9, of Lake Hallie;
• Autumn A. Helgeson, 10, of Lake Hallie;
• Haylee J. Hickle, 10, of Lafayette;
• Sara Jo Schneider, 32, Haylee’s mother.
Treu appeared before a judge via video Tuesday afternoon for an initial appearances on 11 counts, including four counts of homicide and four counts of hit and run causing death. He is scheduled to be in court again December 11. He is being held on $250,000 bond.
The criminal complaint says that he told police he and his passenger — who has not been charged — were sniffing a computer keyboard cleaner he had bought at Walmart. He told police he saw the people in the ditch picking up trash wearing highly visible reflective vests. He said he lost control of the vehicle and fishtailed after the passenger grabbed the wheel, the complaint says.
Treu and the passenger told police they had been “huffing,” or intentionally inhaling chemical fumes, police have said.
The fatal incident was similar to one in September, when Treu crashed his car and police found methamphetamine and THC in it, Newell said in court.
After Saturday’s fatal wreck, Treu went home and had someone else park the vehicle in the garage, the complaint says.
He took another car out to a party with friends, Newell said.
Court documents say a deputy followed a trail of fluid from the scene of the crash to a home that Treu shares with the other man in the truck.
Treu has not yet been assigned a public defender. Temporary representation was with him for his court appearance again Tuesday, and CNN has reached out to the attorney for comment.
Treu was found guilty of “operating with a prohibited blood alcohol concentration” in November 2014 in Chippewa County, the complaint says. On October 2 this year, he was released on bond on a felony charge of possession of methamphetamine.
On Tuesday he was charged with felony bail jumping for not complying with the terms of the bond.
He faces a maximum sentence of 40 years for each count of homicide and up to 25 years for the hit-and-run charges.