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Judge weighing attempted murder charge in 2019 crash

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The judge in the case of a woman accused of rear-ending a motorcyclist at more than 100 mph north of Bismarck is considering whether the most serious charge of attempted murder should be moved to trial.

Dazechnae Willis, 28, also is charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment in the Aug. 28, 2019, crash on U.S. Highway 83. Her two young children were passengers in the vehicle she was driving.

Willis was southbound about 4 miles north of Baldwin -- between Bismarck and Wilton -- when her SUV struck Kelsey Schaefer, who was riding a 1996 Harley Davidson, from the rear, authorities allege. Schaefer and the bike were thrown under the tandem axles of a semitrailer. He suffered a serious brain injury and multiple other injuries that required months of hospitalization and physical therapy, the Highway Patrol said in an affidavit. Willis and her children were not injured.

Data downloaded from Willis’ vehicle showed she was going 107 mph and accelerating just before the crash, Trooper Robert Moyle testified at a Wednesday hearing.

Willis was “acting strangely,” after the crash, Moyle said. She was on her knees in the median and uttering such phrases as “come to Jesus, you must repent,” the trooper said. She was transported to a Bismarck hospital, and underwent 30 days of mental health treatment, according to Moyle.

The crash scene showed no signs that Willis applied her brakes, the trooper said. The most significant marks on the highway were those left by the motorcycle as it slid on its side.

“It appears from all of the evidence that this was an intentional act,” Burleigh County State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer said. She did not offer a theory as to what prompted the alleged incident. Authorities have said Willis and Schaefer did not know one another.

The charge of attempted murder can only be moved to trial if it’s established that Willis took a step toward accomplishing that, defense attorney Kyle Weinberger said. The charge of reckless endangerment fits the allegations, but “we don’t have showing of intent for the underlying charge of murder,” Weinberg said.

“I understand Ms. Lawyer’s assumptions but nothing’s been factually proven to support that allegation,” Weinberger said, adding later “there is no death in this instance, there’s no attempted murder. That cannot be found under Supreme Court rulings.”

South Central District Judge Bonnie Storbakken said she would take the arguments on the attempted murder charge under advisement. She’ll rule later, and Willis will not formally enter pleas in the case until then. Storbakken set aside three days for a trial starting April 19.

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com

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