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Bail reduced for Prechel in death of infant

OLIVIA -- Although he expressed concerns about her failure to make an earlier Kandiyohi County court appearance, District Judge Steve Drange agreed to a defense motion to reduce bail for Nicolle Marie Mercedes Prechel, 31, of Willmar.

She is charged with two felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide for allegedly killing 3½-month old Whyatt Sander and injuring his mother, Sheena Hinshaw, 21, both of Redwood Falls, when she backed a van over their tent on July 5 in a Renville County park.

Judge Drange reduced unconditional bail from $500,000 to $100,000 and conditional bail from $200,000 to $25,000 during a court hearing Monday in Olivia. The judge set conditions that require the defendant to reside at her mother's home in Willmar; submit to random drug and alcohol tests; report weekly to law enforcement and not leave the state of Minnesota.

Prechel remained in custody at the Renville County Jail at the end of the business day Monday.

Renville County Assistant Attorney Glen Jacobsen repeated earlier assertions that Prechel represented an "extreme flight risk" and asked the court to leave the higher bail amounts in place. Jacobsen told the judge that a warrant had been issued in Kandiyohi County in 2007 when she violated probation for a fifth-degree drug offense. A bail bondsman had also alerted him to an alleged attempt by Prechel to flee, according to the attorney.

Jacobsen also told the court that Prechel has contacts and resources in cities in California, Nevada and Florida due to Web sites she maintains offering her modeling services in those areas.

Defense attorney Curt Reese said Prechel has been living the past four years with her mother in Willmar and has family and other ties to the area. Her mother is caring for her 7-year-old daughter, and her 12-year-old son is a frequent visitor to the home, according to information presented in court.

Reese said that Prechel's modeling Web sites advertising locations elsewhere represent areas where her agent seeks work for her.

He also told the court that the July 5 incident was an accident that has distressed his client as it was her cousin's baby that was killed.

She had been camping in Beaver Falls park in the site adjacent to that occupied by her cousin, Jacob Sander.

According to the charges against her, Prechel had consumed most of a bottle of Southern Comfort and smoked marijuana during the night before the 8:30 a.m. incident. She told authorities that she had hit the gas pedal instead of the brake when backing into the camping site and struck the tent. It was dragged about 14 feet before the van struck a pole.

Jacob Sander saw his son fall out of the tent. He set him aside, jumped into the van and drove it off the tent to free Hinshaw. The parents drove their child to the Redwood Falls Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased, according to the criminal complaint.

Along with the felony counts, Prechel faces charges of gross misdemeanor criminal vehicular homicide; two counts of third-degree driving while impaired; and one charge of driving after suspension.

Monday's court appearance was originally scheduled as an omnibus hearing at which the defense can challenge the basis for the charges. Prechel asked that the hearing be continued instead. It is scheduled for Aug. 24.

The judge set Oct. 28 as the date for a possible trial in the case.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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