Bail Set at $300K in Fatal Crash Near Willmar
WILLMAR - Unconditional bail for a man suspected of driving drunk and killing three people in a crash near Willmar Friday night was set today at $300,000. The next court appearance for 21-year-old Paul Wickenhauser of Cokato was set for November 19th.
Several friends and family members for both Wickenhauser and the victims attended the hearing, forcing court officials to move the arraignment to a larger courtroom. More than 20 sat on the defendant's side while around a dozen members of the Stoffers and Hoffman families sat on the other side. Some burst into tears as Wickenhauser entered the courtroom in his blue jail jumpsuit. He told Judge Randall Slieter he understood his rights to a trial and answered "yes your honor" or "no your honor" to questions from the judge.
Jon Kallestad with the Kandiyohi County Attorney's Office cited the seriousness of the charges and asked for $500,000 unconditional bail and $100,000 conditional, but defense attorney Gwen Torgerson said Wickenhauser has strong family ties to the area and will live with his stepfather in the Norwood-Young America area. He recently graduated from Ridgewater College in Willmar and was working as a farm chemical applicator for Centra-Sota.
Slieter set bail at $300,000 unconditional and $50,000 with conditions including random urinalysis and electronic alcohol monitoring.
Wickenhauser is charged with three counts of Criminal Vehicular Homicide or Operation for the deaths of 68-year-old Marta Stoffers of Atwater, 40-year-old Michelle Hoffman of Eden Prairie, and her daugher, 8 year old Julia Hoffman. He is also charged with Criminal Vehicular Operation-Great Bodily Harm for injuries to 5-year-old Jason Hoffman, who is hospitalized at Hennepin County Medical Center.
The Star Tribune reports Jason is making good progress in his recovery, and the family told the paper they thank a bystander at the accident scene for pulling hm out of the burning van and saving his life.
In court today, Torgerson said preliminary tests showed Wickenhauser's blood alcohol content at .07, just less than the legal limit. Kallestad said they had the state patrol hand deliver the blood sample to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension lab in St. Paul, but probably won't get the results back for several days.
Thanks to KWLM in Willmar for this story.