Relatives struggle with Wisconsin deaths of Girl Scout, mom

Nov. 6, 2018


Emergency medical personnel gather at the scene of a hit-and-run accident Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, in Lake Hallie, Wis., that killed two girls and an adult.

MILWAUKEE Relatives of a Girl Scout and her mother who were killed in a hit-and-run crash in Wisconsin that also claimed the lives of two other girls struggled Monday to come to terms with their sudden, heartbreaking loss, saying "we all expect them to come back."

Sara Jo Schneider, 32, and her 10-year-old daughter Haylee Hickle were among a group of adults and children who were picking up trash in the ditches of a rural highway when a pickup truck that veered off the road struck them Saturday morning, said police in Lake Hallie, a town about 95 miles (152 kilometers) east of Minneapolis. The truck driver later told authorities he was inhaling chemical vapors before the crash.

Schneider's mother, Judy Schneider said her daughter and granddaughter's deaths are "still not real for any of us," and her 6-year-old grandson, Jasper, can't grasp what happened.

"He doesn't understand," Schneider said. "He said, 'If the doctors work real hard, sometimes God lets them come back.'"


This photo provided by the Chippewa County Sheriff's Office in Wisconsin shows Colten Treu, who is accused of striking and killing three Girl Scouts and a parent and critically injuring a fourth girl who were picking up trash along a rural roadway near Chippewa Falls, Wis., on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Treu was being held in the Chippewa County Jail on 13 possible charges, including four counts of intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.

Lake Hallie police said the 21-year-old pickup driver, Colten Treu, and a passenger told investigators they had been huffing just before striking the Girl Scout troop. Authorities said Treu sped off after the collision, but surrendered hours later. He is being held in the Chippewa County Jail on $250,000 bond and faces 13 possible charges, including four counts of intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.

Treu made his first court appearance Monday and has another hearing scheduled for Tuesday, when prosecutors are expected to formally charge him.

Schneider said her daughter, granddaughter and grandson moved in with her a couple of years ago and they expected the house in the Town of Lafayette to be their "forever home."

"It was a little piece of heaven," she said. Now, she said, "It's going to be hollow."

Nine-year-old Jayna Kelley and 10-year-old Autum Helgeson, both of Lake Hallie, were also killed. Another 10-year-old girl who was struck was in stable condition at a hospital Monday.



Tire tracks marked with spray paint lead to where a vehicle struck three Girl Scouts and an an adult chaperone on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 in Lake Hallie, Wis. The western Wisconsin community is grieving the deaths of three girls and an adult who were collecting trash along a rural highway when police say a pickup truck veered off the road and hit them before speeding away.

The Girl Scouts out on the highway that day were all fourth-graders at Halmstad and Southview elementary schools in the Chippewa Falls School District. The children and their adult chaperones wore bright green safety vests as they walked along both sides of County Highway P, which they had adopted as a community service project.

Hundreds of community members huddled under umbrellas in the rain Sunday evening for a candlelight vigil outside Halmstad Elementary. Girl Scouts sang songs in memory of the victims, who were members of Troop 3055. A makeshift memorial of teddy bears, balloons and candles was set up on two wooden benches.

Schneider said her daughter's "favorite time with her kids was all in their jammies, curled up to watch a movie."

She said Haylee and her mom "were both exceptional artists" and Haylee dreamed of being an animator. She hated bugs, loved reading "Warrior Cats" books, and could sketch "a wonderful picture in 15 minutes or less," Schneider recalled.

Haylee also enjoyed painting and working on clay pottery with her mother. Haylee's father died when she was 3, Schneider said.

"Haylee would've never made it if she lost her mother," the grandmother said. "And Sara would've never been able to come back from losing Haylee."


Sherri Jasper, a Girl Scout board member and counselor at Halmstad Elementary School, leads the program for a candlelight vigil at the school in Chippewa Falls, Wis., Sunday evening, Nov. 4, 2018. The western Wisconsin community on Sunday was grieving the deaths of three Girl Scouts and a parent who were collecting trash Saturday along a rural highway when police say a pickup truck veered off the road and hit them before speeding away. The 21-year-old driver, Colten Treu of Chippewa Falls, sped off but later surrendered. He will be charged with four counts of homicide, Lake Hallie police Sgt. Daniel Sokup said.


Associated Press