Minnesota couple lived together, died together in hit-and-run incident
EAGAN, Minn. — Roger and Diane Peterson did everything together. They took walks together; volunteered at their church together; took trips together. And on Thursday night, June 28, they died together.
Their routine evening walk down Silver Bell Road in Eagan turned tragic when they were fatally struck by a driver who fled the scene.
"It's a terrible tragedy," said their son, Conrad Peterson. "But, I think if they could have had it anyway, they would have wanted to go together."
Most evenings the Eagan couple walked down Silver Bell Road from their home near Nicols Road, did a few laps around the Silver Bell Business Center and then headed back to pray with Diane's mother before she went to bed.
Conrad said they chose that route because the center's parking lot was well lit and seemed to them to be safe for walking.
And for years it was. But on Thursday night, shortly after 9:30 p.m., police say Jonna Kojo Armartey drove recklessly through the parking lot, striking the Petersons and then fleeing the scene.
Police found Armartey in Apple Valley. He was arrested pending two counts of murder in the second degree. He is being held without bail at the Dakota County jail in Hastings, Minn.
Police were called to the scene about 10 p.m., and the Petersons were taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where they were pronounced dead.
Conrad Peterson, who also lives in Eagan, said when his parents didn't come home, his grandmother went to bed. About 1:30 a.m. she woke up and realized they still had not come back. She was worried, so she called Conrad, who came over. That's when he saw the squad cars still at the scene.
He began calling his three siblings, Anna Stahosky of Zumbrota, Tom Peterson of Forest Lake and Suzy Peterson of St. Paul.
Anna didn't get the call because she'd turned her ringer off. Conrad tried her husband, who answered and relayed the devastating message to Anna.
"I told them there's no possible way," Anna said. "It has to be a mistake."
Armartey, who has several prior convictions on his record including assault, theft and disorderly conduct, was located at the Apple Valley AmericInn hotel and taken into custody about 5 a.m.
The Petersons had been married 37 years. It was a second marriage for Roger, who had Suzy and Tom with his first wife.
"Diane accepted us as her own children," Suzy said. "She was the opposite of what you would think of as a stepmother."
The children described their parents as family-oriented people of deep faith, who were loved by many.
"It's unbelievable how many lives that they touched," Anna said. "They welcomed everyone into their home. It's beyond belief how many people have come to us with their sympathies and condolences. It's a resounding echo of the people that they were."
Diane Peterson, 57, a homeschool mom, loved scrapbooking, cooking, crocheting and card-making. She'd won several blue ribbons at the county and state fairs for her afghans. Every year she and her mother would work together on handmade cards for Christmas.
Roger Peterson, 74, retired from the Ford Motor Co. in 1998 but still loved tinkering with old cars and had a few from the 1950s in his garage.
Both of them were very involved in their church, South Metro Vineyard Church in Burnsville, helping out with vacation Bible school and other ministries.
But their true passion was their family, especially their eight grandchildren.
"It was a tradition of theirs that when they (the grandchild) turned 7 they would take them to the Badlands. When they got older, they took them to Yellowstone," Conrad said. "My daughter is 5 years old. She's not going to be able to do that with them." Neither will Anna's youngest daughter.
Their passing leaves a big hole in a family that depended on them. Conrad's grandmother will have to make other living arrangements. His wife who immigrated from Russia won't have Diane to drive her to work anymore, and their son Tom won't have his parents attend his upcoming wedding.
"My mom was the youngest in the family, the only girl," Conrad said. "Grandma is taking it pretty hard. They were very close."
"They were a solid rock so many people leaned on for wisdom and guidance," said a tearful Anna. "They were my rock."