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Driver Accused Of Huffing Before Deadly Girl Scout Crash Has History Of Driving Impaired, Prosecutors Say

Colten Treu was involved in an eerily similar incident just over a month ago, authorities in Wisconsin say, as the victims' families try to make sense of the tragedy. 

By Jill Sederstrom

The man accused of huffing a can of air duster before plowing into a Girl Scout troop in Wisconsin, killing four, had been involved in a similar incident just over a month before the fatal hit and run, prosecutors say. 

Colten R. Treu is believed to have been driving while impaired on Sept. 30 when he swerved off the road, went into a ditch and rolled his vehicle, Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell said during a bond hearing Monday.

"Officers did a field sobriety test and noticed his impairment," Newell told the judge, according to the Leader-Telegram.

They also  allegedly discovered meth and marijuana in the vehicle; however, Treu has not yet been charged in the incident. According to Newell, Treu also has a 2014 drunk driving conviction.

The circumstances of the crash earlier this fall are eerily similar to the events on Saturday.

In that fatal incident, prosecutors say Treu and another passenger purchased a can of air duster from a Walmart less than two miles from the scene of the crash and had been huffing the aerosol can before driving down the rural Wisconsin highway, where a group of 12 Girl Scouts - five adults and seven children - were picking up trash in a ditch as part of a community service project. The black Ford F-150 began to drift toward the group, at which point the passenger allegedly grabbed the wheel to straighten the car's path. But Treu grabbed the wheel back, turning it sharply and sending the truck heading straight for the group of volunteers, the Leader-Telegram reports.


The truck crashed into four young Girl Scouts and one mom. Four of the victims died as a result of the their injuries; the fifth victim, a fourth grader, was hospitalized in stable condition.

Lake Hallie police have identified the victims as Jayna S. Kelley, 9; Autum A. Helgeson, 10; Haylee J. Hickle, 10 and her mother, Sara Jo Schneider, 32.

Police have not identified the surviving victim.

After allegedly striking the group, authorities say Treu fled the scene and tried to hide the vehicle in his garage behind another car, according to the Leader-Telegram. He and the passenger both later turned themselves in Saturday afternoon.

On Monday, Judge James Isaacson ordered Treu to be held on $250,000 cash bond. He's not yet been formally charged but is expected to face four counts of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle, four counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, four counts of hit and run involving death and one count of hit and run involving great bodily harm.

The families of the victims are now left grief-stricken at the sudden and tragic loss.

Judy Schneider, who lost both her daughter and granddaughter in the crash, told Fox News it is "still not real for any of us."

She said Sara Jo Schneider's 6-year-old son, Jasper, was having the hardest time processing the loss.

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

She described her granddaughter Haylee as a girl who hated bugs, loved to read and was a talented artist who hoped to become an animator. She had lost her father when she was just 3 years old.

Judy Schneider told Fox News her daughter, who was also a talented artist, loved spending time with her children curled up in their jammies, watching a movie together.

Troop leader Robin Kelley, who lost her daughter Jayna, told "CBS This Morning" the crash happened in an instant.

"There was no warning. It was fast. It was from behind. No one could turn around," she told the morning show.

Jayna's father, Brian Kelley, added: "You want to get mad about it, and you feel guilty about it, but you can't. It was just something that was out of our control."

[Photo: Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office]

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