EL PASO COUNTY — The Douglas County Sheriff's Office is investigating a suspected murder-suicide case that started in Highlands Ranch and ended near the Ray Nixon Power Plant Tuesday night.
Deputies said identified the suspect as 18-year-old Samuel Hoffman discovered by multiple agencies in a vehicle with a 17-year-old girl.
Our partner Denver7 confirmed with the El Paso County Coroner's Office Thursday that the teen was 17-year-old Mya Peña, who was reported missing.
According to the DCSO, this all began at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday when the female victim was picked up by the suspect after she got out of school at Mile High Academy in Highlands Ranch.
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said the two then drove to a parking lot across the street from the school and between 3:15 and 3:30 p.m. authorities believe Hoffman killed the girl.
Authorities say around 3:30 p.m. the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office called Spurlock’s office and asked deputies to assist them and the Littleton Police Department in looking for the girl, who was reported missing by that time.
Colorado Springs Police, Fountain Police, Colorado State Patrol and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office joined in on the search.
Then, at 7:45 p.m. authorities found the suspect's vehicle near mile marker 125 in Fountain. As officers made contact with Hoffman, he reportedly shot and killed himself with a .22 caliber pistol.
The missing girl's body was found in the back seat of the car.
Hoffman and the victim had been friends for years, Spurlock said, adding that “at some point their relationship grew stronger.”
An investigation is underway into how Hoffman got the gun, since someone who is under the age of 21 can't buy or legally possess a handgun in Colorado.
DCSO said that Hoffman attended Littleton High School until December 2018, when he left on his own to attend a GED program at Littleton Public Schools. He dropped out of the program in April 2019 and was not known to attend any other school since then, the sheriff's office said.
"This is a horrible tragedy that happened to two very young people in our community. I always continue to urge folks in a mental health crisis or people who know about it to call," Sheriff Spurlock said.
The name of the victim has not been released per request of her family.
Teen suicide in Colorado has risen nearly 60% in the last three years according to the United Health Foundation. That's the fastest rate in the nation.
If you or someone you know needs help please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.