EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — An 18-year-old is accused of killing a 17-year-old girl who was reported missing, driving to Fountain with her body in the backseat of his car, and then shooting himself, according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office (DCSO).

The Fountain Police Department (FPD) and Colorado State Patrol (CSP) located 18-year-old Samuel Hoffman's vehicle along Interstate 25 around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday night after DCSO put out information that they were looking for the car in relation to an incident earlier in the day.

"We had information that the suspect had shared on social media...concerns about his behavior with the victim," said Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock. "That's how so many agencies got involved very very quickly, to try and locate this vehicle."

The victim was later identified as 17-year-old Mya Pena.

>> gofundme created for Pena's funeral costs

Mya Pena
The body of 17-year-old Mya Pena was found in the backseat of a car in Fountain. She had been previously reported missing.
Family photo

As the officers approached the vehicle Tuesday night, they heard a single gunshot, according to the Sheriff's Office. The body of the female victim was found in the backseat of the vehicle, according to Spurlock.

At this time it is believed that Hoffman died by suicide inside the vehicle before he could be contacted by police, DCSO said. The deaths are being investigated as a murder-suicide.

"We know that they had been friends over a period of years, and at some point, their relationship obviously grew stronger," Spurlock said.

He stopped short of saying they were in a romantic relationship.

The name of the female victim has not been released, however, DCSO said she was a student at Mile High Academy located on Dad Clark Drive in Highlands Ranch.

She attended school on Tuesday, left school around 3:15 p.m. and got into a car with Hoffman, according to Spurlock.

"They drove across the parking lot to another parking lot and between 3:15 and 3:30 [p.m.], we believe the suspect murdered our 17-year-old victim," said Spurlock. "I want to make it very clear that the murder did not happen in the school's parking lot as it was originally thought. It was in an adjacent parking lot, out of their jurisdiction."

Spurlock did not say how she died and could not provide a motive for the killing.

"We had no information that they were having any kind of issues between each other," Spurlock said. "That is still an ongoing investigation. At this point, this is a horrible tragedy that we are trying to sift through to try and gather as much information as we can to tell a story."

Hoffman was a student at Littleton High School but left in November 2018 to pursue a GED, according to a spokesperson for DCSO. Spurlock said he was under investigation for a prior domestic violence incident in Aurora in November 2019 that did not involve the victim in this case. 

Aurora Police said Hoffman was arrested for third-degree assault after they responded to a home on South Racine Way around 12:30 a.m. on March 3, 2019.

Spurlock said his agency also had prior contact with Hoffman for an earlier incident at Mile High Academy.

"We had contact for his behavior that conspired on school property at Mile High Academy for a mental health hold, and then he had a separate domestic violence investigation," Spurlock said.

Spurlock said Hoffman was in possession of a pistol, which he used to take his own life. They're investigating how he got that weapon since he was not old enough to legally purchase a handgun in Colorado.

Mile High Academy shared the following statement:

It is with profound sadness that Mile High Academy confirms the loss of one of our students last night. Our hearts go out to this family. We want this family to know that they are in our thoughts and prayers. MHA has been working closely with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department as they continue to investigate this tragedy. Mile High Academy will have grief counselors on hand to help our students, staff and families with this loss. Prayers for our students and staff are appreciated. Thank you for respecting the privacy of our school community as this time. 

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misstated why Hoffman left Littleton High School.

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