Two teens whose bodies were found in a car off Interstate 25 south of Fountain on Tuesday night died in a murder-suicide, authorities said Wednesday.

About 7:45 p.m., police found the bodies of Samuel Hoffman, 18, and Mya Pena, 17, inside a car near the Ray Nixon Power Plant, investigators said. 

Pena was identified by the El Paso County coroner on Thursday. 

A vigil was held for Pena Thursday evening. You can watch it here. A GoFundMe for Pena's funeral costs has raised more than 22,000 as of 8:30 p.m. Thursday. 

According to a statement released by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, when officers approached the car on Tuesday night, a single gunshot was heard from inside the vehicle. Authorities believe Hoffman, of Littleton, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Pena was found dead in the back seat of the vehicle, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said.

Investigators believe Pena was killed earlier that day in Highlands Ranch after the suspect picked her up from Mile High Adventist Academy, a Christian school at 1733 Dad Clark Drive.

“We ask for your prayers for both the students and the staff at Mile High Academy,” the school said in a statement read by Spurlock.

Hoffman was expelled from Littleton High School in November for a “number of events” including a domestic violence incident and a mental health hold, Spurlock said. Authorities said they found a .22-caliber pistol that was used in the suicide. Officials are still investigating where Hoffman got the weapon.

Though the coroner has not yet determined the cause of the deaths, the Sheriff’s Office will investigate it as a murder-suicide that began in Douglas County on Tuesday afternoon, the sheriff’s statement said.

Authorities said Hoffman and Pena had been “friends for a certain amount of years,” but did not elaborate on their relationship. Hoffman’s previous domestic violence case was with another female, Spurlock said.

“This is a horrible tragedy that happened to two very young people,” Spurlock said.

“In our community, I always continue to urge folks that are in a mental health crisis and people who know about it to call … our wish is to have those things reported as soon as possible so we have a chance to intervene.”

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, El Paso County Coroner’s Office, Fountain Police Department and Colorado State Patrol are investigating the deaths.

2 bodies found off I-25 in south El Paso County

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Multimedia Journalist

Liz is a multimedia journalist who joined the Gazette staff in 2019.

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