LANCASTER – A central Pennsylvania man will serve 28 to 56 years behind bars for suffocating his girlfriend after she survived his deliberate, high-speed car crash.
Benjamin Klinger, 21, of Elizabethtown, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and was sentenced Friday in Lancaster County Court. He apologized for the death of 17-year-old Samantha “Sammi” Heller, with whom he had a turbulent relationship, according to Lancaster Online.
“I accept full responsibility for the loss of a very special person,” Klinger told the victim’s family. “I want you to know with all my heart I’m sorry … really sorry.”
Klinger was physically and verbally abusive to Heller in the two years before he intentionally sped his car into a guardrail near Manheim at about 100 mph, authorities said.
A truck driver who came upon the wreckage Dec. 4, 2012, heard Heller screaming and was told by 911 operators not to move the crash victims. When police arrived, Klinger was sitting on top of Heller’s head and torso, according to the arrest affidavit.
The victim’s mother, Sandy McFalls, said her daughter had been happy, charismatic and loving until she met Klinger and began withdrawing from family and friends.
“We began to do everything we could to keep Sammi away from Ben,” McFalls said in court.
Since Heller’s death, McFalls said, her heart is shattered and she has become “a prisoner in my house.”
“I want you to have nothing else to do (in prison) but think about how you took her life and destroyed ours,” McFalls said of Klinger.
Klinger’s sentence includes time for a drug charge and for sending sexually explicit photos of a minor. Judge Margaret Miller said she hopes Klinger comes out of prison a changed man.
“There is no doubt in my mind you lived your life with a callousness, arrogance and a cowardliness, frankly,” Miller said, “because being a bully is a coward.”