Judge Denies Change of Venue for Cokato Man 13 Mar 13

District Judge Donald M. Spilseth has denied a change of venue motion in the criminal vehicular homicide case against a Cokato man.

22-year-old Paul Anthony Wickenhauser faces a total of 15 felony charges, plus a misdemeanor count, for the motor vehicle crash Aug. 17 east of Willmar that killed 68-year-old Marta Stoffers of Atwater, her daughter-in-law, 40-year-old Michelle Hoffman of Eden Prairie, and Hoffman’s 8-year-old daughter, Julia.

The West Central Tribune reports that after an omnibus hearing Tuesday morning in Kandiyohi County District Court, Spilseth took a number of other motions by Wickenhauser’s attorney, Lynne Torgerson, under advisement. The motions include whether or not law enforcement officers had probable cause to take a blood sample from Wickenhauser that showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.09, over the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.

The charges were filed after the three family members 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.

Torgerson argued that pretrial publicity by local media outlets, including the West Central Tribune, constituted “extensive” publicity. Assistant County Attorney John Kallestad argued that Torgerson had not shown that a jury couldn’t be found from county residents.