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Attorney for man accused in death of girlfriend asking for day-long motion hearing

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE  —  An attorney for a 19-year-old Elk Mound man who was the driver in a Town of Tainter car accident last September that killed his girlfriend is asking for a day-long motion hearing.

Gunnar D. Zurek appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court June 8 before Judge James Peterson along with his attorney, Michael Cohen.

Cohen told the court he had retained an expert and that he was requesting a day-long hearing for a motion he planned to file, noting that there were “factual problems” with the case.

The expert, who is from Mississippi, should have a report ready by the middle of July, Cohen said.

Vannessa N. Marsh, 18, of Elk Mound, was ejected from the vehicle Zurek was driving last September 23 and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Zurek is charged with causing death, knowingly operating a vehicle with a suspended driver’s license causing great bodily harm, homicide by operating a vehicle after using a controlled substance, and homicide by the negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

He is charged with misdemeanor counts of possessing marijuana, possessing drug paraphernalia, bail jumping, and causing injury by operating a vehicle while using a controlled substance.

Zurek is in custody on a $25,000 cash bail for a felony charge of bail jumping related to an incident that occurred in Eau Claire in March.

According to the criminal complaint, an off-duty Eau Claire police officer observed a red Dodge truck driving very closely to a vehicle behind her on South Hastings Way just south of Eddy Lane.

The truck accelerated rapidly and then slammed on its brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of it, the officer said.

The driver of the truck was identified as Zurek, who had posted a $1,000 cash bond in Dunn County after he was charged with the felonies related to the car accident in which Marsh was killed. As a condition of bail, Zurek was ordered not to drive a motor vehicle without a valid driver’s license.

On the date of the incident in Eau Claire, March 7, Zurek did not have a valid driver’s license, and the Dunn County bond was still in effect.

Judge Peterson said he had vacation days scheduled for August 25 through August 28, and that if Cohen’s expert was available to testify, one of those days could be used for the motion hearing.

All together, Zurek is facing charges in more than a dozen different cases related to the fatal accident in September, including felonies, misdemeanors and traffic cases.

A status conference for the Zurek cases has been scheduled August 5, and a tentative motion hearing has been scheduled for August 27.

“I hope you have a good idea where you are headed on August 5. (We need) to get numerous files set for trial,” Judge Peterson said.

According to an accident reconstruction completed by Trooper Derrek Hanson of the Wisconsin State Patrol, the analysis concluded that the “crash sequence” started 595 feet west of the final resting place of the 2001 Dodge that Zurek was driving on 770th Avenue in the Town of Tainter and that the car had rolled for 138 feet.

Trooper Hanson estimated that Zurek was traveling between 73 mph and 89 mph at the time of accident.

Thirty-four-year-old Joseph Thalacker of Augusta also was injured in the accident.

Thalacker told officers that he had been in the car with his cousin and his cousin’s girlfriend.