WILLMAR — District Judge Donald M. Spilseth has denied a change of venue motion in the criminal vehicular homicide case against Paul Anthony Wickenhauser, 22, of Cokato.
Wickenhauser faces a total of 15 felony charges, plus a misdemeanor count, for the motor vehicle crash Aug. 17 east of Willmar that killed Marta Stoffers, 68, of Atwater, her daughter-in-law, Michelle Hoffman, 40, of Eden Prairie, and Hoffman’s 8-year-old daughter, Julia.
After an omnibus hearing this morning in Kandiyohi County District Court, Spilseth took a number of other motions by Wickenhauser’s attorney, Lynne Torgerson, under advisement. The motions include whether or not law enforcement officers had probable cause to take a blood sample from Wickenhauser that showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.09, over the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.
The charges were filed after the three family members killed in the head-on crash, which happened around 9 p.m. Aug. 17 near where U.S. Highway 12 intersects with County Road 127. Hoffman’s 5-year-old son, Jason, was injured.
Torgerson argued that pretrial publicity by local media outlets, including the West Central Tribune, constituted “extensive” publicity. Assistant County Attorney John Kallestad argued that Torgerson had not shown that a jury couldn’t be found from county residents.
Read more about the testimony of State Trooper Dennis Koenen and the attorney’s arguments in the case in tomorrow’s West Central Tribune.