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Additional felonies for man in fatal crash that killed 3 people

The amended criminal complaint filed at the end of last month in Kandiyohi County District Court brings to 15 the total felony charges against Paul Anthony Wickenhauser.

WILLMAR — Prosecutors have filed three more felony charges of criminal vehicular operation against the 22-year-old Cokato man already facing multiple criminal counts for the triple fatal motor vehicle crash Aug. 17 east of Willmar.

The amended criminal complaint filed Jan. 30 in Kandiyohi County District Court brings to 15 the total felony charges against Paul Anthony Wickenhauser.

The omnibus hearing that had been scheduled for today in the case has been canceled and a new omnibus hearing date set for March 12. Wickenhauser also faces a misdemeanor charge for having an open bottle.

The new charges of criminal vehicular operation are for the substantial bodily harm caused to the 5-year-old boy who survived the crash.  

Marta Stoffers, 68, of Atwater, her daughter-in-law, Michelle Hoffman, 40, of Eden Prairie, and Hoffman’s 8-year-old daughter Julia were all 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.

Wickenhauser was originally charged with four counts of criminal vehicular homicide and injury, plus the misdemeanor for open bottle. The complaint has been amended twice before, bringing charges of criminal vehicular operation based on blood alcohol content.

According to the State Patrol, Stoffers was driving east in a 2001 Chrysler Town and Country van. A 2004 Chevy Silverado pickup driven by Wickenhauser was traveling west and hit the van head-on. The force of the impact pushed the van into the north ditch of the highway, where it caught fire, according to the State Patrol.

Law enforcement officers found a broken bottle of Captain Morgan rum on the roadway, a cooler containing a case of beer in the bed of the pickup and an open bottle of hard liquor with a portion of the contents removed behind the driver’s seat of the vehicle.

According to the complaint, Wickenhauser told the trooper that his pickup went across the centerline a foot or so and that the driver of the other vehicle must have thought he was going to continue going into the wrong lane and so the other driver went into his lane.

At the scene of the crash, Wickenhauser admitted to drinking beer at his home in Cokato and a preliminary breath test showed a blood alcohol content of 0.07 percent. A blood sample was taken at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar and sent to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for analysis, which showed 0.09 percent. The threshold for impaired driving in Minnesota is 0.08 percent.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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