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Wickenhauser fatal crash trial in September; judge denies motion to suppress blood test

WILLMAR -- A jury trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 10 for Paul Anthony Wickenhauser, the 22-year-old Cokato man facing 15 felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide or operation for the triple fatal motor vehicle crash last summer east of Willmar.

The trial is scheduled for five days before District Judge Donald M. Spilseth in Kandiyohi County District Court. Wickenhauser's pretrial hearing was continued from Monday to July 29, and there is also a trial management conference scheduled for Aug. 19.

The Aug. 17, 2012, crash 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 felony 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 Kandiyohi County Road 127. Hoffman's 5-year-old son, Jason, was injured.

In an order issued Friday, Spilseth denied Wickenhauser's motion to suppress the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension-tested blood sample, which showed a 0.09 blood-alcohol content, taken from Wickenhauser at Rice Memorial Hospital after the crash. The legal limit for driving while impaired charges is 0.08 percent.

In the order, Spilseth concluded that law enforcement officers had probable cause to arrest Wickenhauser for negligent criminal vehicular operation and have his blood drawn after the crash.

The order also includes information about the State Patrol's reconstruction of the crash. The original criminal complaint includes Wickenhauser's statement to law officers that his vehicle crossed the centerline about a foot and that the oncoming vehicle, driven by Stoffers, swerved into his lane just before the crash.

In contrast, Spliseth's order finds that the reconstruction established that Wickenhauser's Chevy Silverado was almost entirely in the opposite lane of traffic at the time of the crash, that Stoffers had slowed her vehicle to about 30 mph and that Wickenhauser did not reduce his speed of 63 mph in a 55 mph zone or engage in evasive maneuvers prior to the impact.

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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