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No change of venue for man charged in fatal crash outside Willmar, Minn.

WILLMAR — District Judge Donald M. Spilseth has followed last week’s verbal denial of a change of venue with a written order in the case of Paul Anthony Wickenhauser, the 22-year-old Cokato man facing 15 felony charges for the triple fatal motor vehicle crash last summer east of Willmar.

The order was issued Tuesday in Kandiyohi County District Court. Spilseth has not yet ruled on other issues from the March 12 omnibus hearing, including motions to suppress the evidence of Wickenhauser’s blood tests, which showed that his blood-alcohol content was higher than the legal limit for driving in the state.

He faces felony criminal vehicular homicide or operation charges in the fatal motor vehicle crash Aug. 17 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.

The charges, plus a misdemeanor charge for open bottle, were filed after the three family members were killed in the head-on crash near where U.S. Highway 12 intersects with County Road 127. Hoffman’s 5-year-old son, Jason, was injured.

In her motion for a change of venue, Wickenhauser’s attorney, Lynne Torgerson, argued that media publicity stating that her client’s blood-alcohol content was over the limit was “highly prejudicial testimony.”

In his order denying the change of venue from Kandiyohi County, Spilseth noted that Torgerson submitted various newspaper articles and short news clippings from radio station websites, and that at least two of the articles were from the Star Tribune, which serves Hennepin County, which is where Wickenhauser requested to have the trial moved.

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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