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North Dakota judge OKs attempted murder charge in highway crash

The case stems from August 2019, when a vehicle driven by Dazechnae Willis, of Colorado, struck a motorcycle driven by Kelsey Schaefer on U.S. Highway 83 near Baldwin, North Dakota, a town about 17 miles north of Bismarck.

Willis hearing.JPG
Dazechnae Willis and her attorney, Kyle Weinberger, in a virtual court hearing on Jan. 12, 2022.
Screenshot via Zoom
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BISMARCK — Burliegh County District Judge Bonnie Storbakken has allowed an attempted murder charge to move forward in a case arising from a high-speed highway crash that severely injured a motorcyclist.

The case stems from August 2019, when a vehicle driven by Dazechnae Willis, of Colorado, struck a motorcycle driven by Kelsey Schaefer on U.S. Highway 83 near Baldwin, North Dakota, a town about 17 miles north of Bismarck.

Schaefer suffered severe injuries, but survived the collision. Prosecutors charged Willis with attempted murder and one count each of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment, all felonies.

An affidavit filed by prosecutors alleges Willis struck Schaefer's motorcycle from behind and that Willis was traveling at an estimated speed of 107 mph.

There was no indication Willis tried to brake before her vehicle struck Schaefer, according to the affidavit.

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Willis and two minor children who were in her vehicle were not hurt in the crash, and Willis did not have liability coverage when the crash occurred, the affidavit said.

At a preliminary hearing on Jan. 12, Judge Storbakken found probable cause for the charges of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment, but she said she needed more time to determine whether there was probable cause for the attempted murder charge.

During the hearing, the defense contested the attempted murder charge, maintaining there were insufficient grounds to bring the charge and therefore it should be dropped.

This week, the judge issued an order finding probable cause for the attempted murder charge, noting in her ruling:

"The state has alleged that the defendant took a substantial step toward intentionally causing the death of another human being. After consideration of the testimony presented at the preliminary hearing regarding the data received from the defendant's vehicle around the time of the accident, this court finds the state has met its burden of probable cause for the charge of attempted murder," Storbakken wrote.

A trial on all three charges Willis is facing has been set for April 19.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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