Moorhead murder, arson trial set to start Monday
MOORHEAD — The trial of a man accused of beating a Moorhead woman to death and then setting ablaze the home she was housesitting starts Monday, Dec. 4., in Clay County District Court.
Justin Marshall Critt, 40, is accused of killing Melissa Willcoxon, 49, with a hammer on June 28, 2016, at 1019 11th Ave. S. He faces charges of second-degree murder and first-degree arson.
Critt has prior criminal convictions in Minnesota and North Dakota, including arson, assault and possession of drug paraphernalia.
A Nov. 28 court filing said many of those convictions can't be offered into evidence, but Judge Michelle Lawson noted that if Critt testifies, convictions not previously allowed can then be used to challenge his truthfulness.
Lawson is also allowing hearsay statements made by Willcoxon to three women on the day of her death.
According to court documents:
Police went to the home June 28 on a report of an intoxicated man. Officers found Critt on a bed in the basement. Critt left the home and tried to take power tools and a bike, but was told to leave them. Police left about 3 p.m.
Critt then asked the woman who owned the home if he could get his property, and Willcoxon called the woman to say Critt had returned.
A witness told police he saw a man run from the house about 4:15 p.m. and ride away on a bicycle, carrying a sack.
Shortly after 4:30 p.m., firefighters were dispatched to a fire at the house and found Willcoxon's body.
Critt was detained and denied setting the fire or killing Willcoxon. But an acquaintance of Critt told detectives Critt said he had killed someone.
Investigators found a hammer near Willcoxon's body. Autopsy results showed Willcoxon had a head injury consistent with a hammer strike.
A lab test confirmed a splatter mark on Critt's shirt was Willcoxon's blood, court documents said.