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Nicolle Prechel of Redwood County has been arrested in the Renville County pending charges of driving while intoxicated and criminal vehicular homicide. Prechel allegedly backed over and through a tent fatally injuring an infant and injuring the infant's mother.

Prechel enters no plea in death of 3½-month-old boy

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OLIVIA -- Nicolle Marie Mercedes Prechel, 31, of Willmar, entered no plea Wednesday to seven charges as she made her first appearance in court before District Judge Randall Slieter in Olivia.

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Prechel is charged in the death of 3½-month-old Whyatt Sander of Redwood Falls after allegedly backing her van over a tent.

The charges include two felony charges of criminal vehicular homicide and two gross misdemeanor counts of the same charge; two counts of third-degree driving while impaired; and one charge of driving after suspension.

Slieter set unconditional bail at $500,000, as requested by the prosecution. He set conditional bail at $200,000 with requirements that she abstain from alcohol and drugs, not leave the state, and have no contact with the parents of the child.

She remained in custody in the Renville County Jail as of Wednesday evening.

Prechel is alleged to have backed her van over a tent, killing Sander and injuring his mother, Sheena Hinshaw, 21, also of Redwood Falls, around 8:30 a.m. Sunday. The family was camping in Beaver Falls Park near Morton. The victim's father, Jacob Sander, 27, of Redwood Falls, was standing outside the tent when the van backed over it.

The van dragged the tent and the mother and child 14 feet before striking a pole and stopping.

Jacob Sander and Prechel are cousins and were camping in adjacent sites.

Whyatt Sander was pronounced deceased at the Redwood Falls Hospital, where his parents drove him immediately after the incident. Hinshaw suffered contusions and abrasions and remains in severe pain, according to family members attending the court hearing.

Prechel is alleged to have had a breath alcohol level of 0.17 or more than twice the legal limit when stopped on her way to the Redwood Falls Hospital by a Renville County sheriff's deputy.

Nearly 20 family members and friends attended Wednesday's hearing.

Assistant County Attorney Glen Jacobsen called Prechel an "extreme flight risk'' when asking for the high bail. He told the judge that Prechel operates her own modeling service and has numerous Web sites listing her business in a variety of locations, including Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, as well as Florida and Minnesota.

"She has extensive contacts and connections through the U.S.,'' Jacobsen said.

He also charged that a local bondsman told him that he had to intervene when he learned that Prechel was about to flee the state a few years ago when facing charges in Kandiyohi County for fifth-degree controlled substance possession.

Prechel's court-appointed attorney, Curt Reese, said Prechel has been on probation in Kandiyohi County for 4½ years and has not missed any appointments. He said she left the state once when her life was threatened, but Reese said she had informed probation officers about the situation.

He pointed out that Prechel grew up in Olivia, lives in Willmar and has many family members in the area. He said the modeling business provides only temporary work and asked that she be released on her own recognizance.

Reese told the court that his client would waive her rights to a second hearing and asked for a speedy trial.

The schedule for the case will be determined once a new judge is assigned to hear it. Jacobsen entered a motion exercising his prerogative to remove Judge Slieter from the case.

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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