Metro-East News

Swansea woman killed on I-55 was mother of 3 and roller derby ace; charges filed

Steven L. Willis, 38, of Maryville was charged Friday with aggravated DUI in connection with the crash that killed Samantha Miller, 27, of Swansea. Miller was standing along Interstate 55, where her car broke down, when she was hit by a pickup driven Thursday night by Willis.
Steven L. Willis, 38, of Maryville was charged Friday with aggravated DUI in connection with the crash that killed Samantha Miller, 27, of Swansea. Miller was standing along Interstate 55, where her car broke down, when she was hit by a pickup driven Thursday night by Willis.

A 27-year-old Swansea woman killed when she was struck by a vehicle along Interstate 55 was remembered Friday as a devoted mother of three and a loyal teammate on a Belleville-based roller derby team.

Samantha S. Miller — also known as Slam Van Diesel on the Confluence Crush roller derby team — was killed when a pickup struck her Thursday night along Interstate 55 in Madison County. She had gotten out of her 1999 Mitsubishi hatchback when it broke down.

Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons on Friday afternoon charged the pickup driver, 38-year-old Steven L. Willis of Maryville, with two counts of aggravated DUI. The more serious charge, aggravated DUI causing death, carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

GUESTBOOK: Offer your condolences to the family of Samantha S. Miller

According to Illinois State Police, Miller was standing on the shoulder of the interstate near Maryville when Willis’ 2014 Cheverolet Silverado struck Miller. It happened about 8 p.m.

Katie Robbins, president of the Confluence Crushers, said Miller worked at a nursing home and a laundromat, attended classes at Southwestern Illinois College and skated on the roller derby team.

“She was one of the hardest-working women, on and off the track. She worked two jobs, supported her children, and made almost every single practice we had,” Robbins said. “She basically embodied everything the Confluence Crush stands for, which is sisterhood, empowerment and skates.”

She basically embodied everything the Confluence Crush stands for, which is sisterhood, empowerment and skates.

Katie Robbins, president of Confluence Crush roller derby team

Miller was a blocker for the team, and had recently been named a co-captain.

“She was a vital part of the team,” Robbins said. “She was a great blocker. She even jammed for us, as well.”

Robbins said teammates were waiting for Miller to arrive at a practice session Thursday night, but they got a message from her, saying her car broke down on the interstate. A teammate returned a message, offering to pick up Miller.

“We never heard back from her,” Robbins said.

Miller was an Air Force veteran and a graduate of Belleville East High School.

Miller’s three children, ages 3, 6, and 8, were in her car when it was hit. They were taken to a hospital for treatment. Gibbons said the 3-year-old suffered the most serious injuries and was being treated for a skull fracture.

A GoFundMe account has been started to help with funeral expenses and other costs. A benefit will be held for her family starting at 10 p.m. Saturday at Big Daddy’s bar and restaurant at 313 E. Main Street in Belleville.

Robbins said teammates have begun thinking about how to honor Miller. They’ll probably wear arm patches during the upcoming season, which begins Jan. 30 with a home match at Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville, and they’ll probably retire Miller’s jersey number, 1988.

“It’s been difficult,” Robbins said. “She was an amazing person.”

Gibbons said Willis was being held Friday at the Madison County Jail, with bail set at $200,000 by Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli.

“This was a horrible, tragic event,” Gibbons said. “Three children are now without a mother due to this defendant’s terrible decision to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.”

Three children are now without a mother due to this defendant’s terrible decision to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

Tom Gibbons, Madison County state’s attorney

Miller was killed instantly, Nonn said.

“The decedent suffered head and neck injuries,” Nonn said.

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