Spring Brook homicide suspect says man attacked her

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE   — A 20-year-old Stanley woman accused of stabbing to death a 24-year-old Eau Claire man in the Town of Spring Brook says the man had attacked her.

Ezra J. McCandless, accompanied by her attorney, Aaron Nelson, made an initial appearance in Dunn County Circuit Court before Judge James Peterson April 6 on one felony count of first degree intentional homicide.

McCandless is accused in the stabbing death of Alexander Woodworth March 22.

Bail was set at $250,000 cash during a court hearing March 28.

First-degree intentional homicide carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

A two-hour preliminary hearing is scheduled in Dunn County Circuit Court April 25.

During a preliminary hearing, witnesses give testimony the judge uses to determine whether probable cause exists to believe a crime has been committed. If the judge determines there is probable cause, the defendant is bound over for trial and an arraignment hearing is scheduled during which the defendant most often enters a plea of “not guilty.”

Nelson asked the court to strike one paragraph from the complaint, to seal the complaint, and to prohibit the news media from using the information in the paragraph.

Assistant state attorney general Richard Dufour, who appeared at the hearing by telephone, said McCandless had signed a waiver regarding her medical information for the purposes of the investigation, and therefore, the paragraph should not be stricken from the complaint.

Nelson said he had “no reason to believe” McCandless had signed a waiver.

The paragraph deals with a report from a physician.

Judge Peterson told Nelson to put his motion in writing.

The court will not seal the complaint or strike the paragraph, Judge Peterson said.

“The toothpaste is out of the tube on that issue,” he said.

On foot

On March 22, a Town of Spring Brook resident called Dunn County dispatch to say a woman had arrived at his residence on foot. The man said the woman was bleeding, her clothes were torn, she was not wearing any shoes and her pants were covered in mud, according to the criminal complaint.

The Dunn County deputy who responded to the residence, along with a state trooper, noted the woman’s hair was disheveled, her pants were muddy to the knees, and she appeared to have blood around her mouth, on her knuckles, on her left arm and on her upper right thigh, which was visible through an “L” shaped hole in her pants, the complaint notes.

When the deputy asked if the woman had any identification, she indicated she did not. The deputy observed that the woman appeared to be very upset.

When the trooper asked if the woman was from Eau Claire, she said she was, but she was unable to provide an address or her name. When the trooper asked if there was anyone they could contact for her, she said they could contact Jason Mengle.

The woman was transported by ambulance to Mayo-Eau Claire. The deputy followed, and as the woman was being treated by medical staff, she said her name was Ezra McCandless and that she had changed her name from Monica Karlen in 2015. The deputy was able to see the word “boy” was cut into her left arm, according to the complaint.

ECPD

The deputy contacted the Eau Claire Police Department for assistance in locating Mengle. An officer from the Eau Claire Police Department said they’d had contact earlier that day at approximately 12:30 p.m. with McCandless, Mengle and Alexander Woodworth, according to the complaint.

When the deputy called Mengle, the man said the last time he had seen McCandless was when she was with Woodworth at Woodworth’s residence in Eau Claire. The Eau Claire officer attempted to contact Woodworth at his residence but was unable to do so, the complaint states.

The deputy and the Eau Claire officer went back to Mayo-Eau Claire to speak with McCandless, who said she and Woodworth had gone to Owen Park in Eau Claire, where Woodworth allegedly attacked McCandless, according to the complaint.

The altercation started because Woodworth had called her a boy and had cut her arm with the word “boy,” the complaint states.

Public cameras

The Eau Claire officer reviewed the public space cameras where McCandless said the alleged attack had taken place. The officer reported McCandless’s vehicle was not seen coming or going from the park and that the area is near a busy intersection with a large amount of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, according to the complaint.

A detective with the Eau Claire Police Department continued the investigation and noticed a significant amount of time had passed from when McCandless was last seen with Woodworth and when she appeared at the Spring Brook residence, the complaint states.

Eau Claire Police Department detectives continued to try to locate Woodworth, and based on the circumstances of McCandless’s arrival at the Spring Brook residence, the detectives became concerned about Woodworth’s safety, according to the complaint.

Muddy road

The next day, March 23, detectives decided to return to the Town of Spring Brook residence to interview the homeowner again and gather additional information.

At about 3 p.m. March 23, four detectives set out for the Town of Spring Brook, and as they were traveling on 430th Avenue, they saw a muddy road running to the south about a 40-acre parcel east of the residence where McCandless had arrived on foot.

As the other detectives were speaking with the homeowner, two detectives took a closer look and saw footprints on the muddy road that appeared to be barefoot or stocking footed because the footprints did not contain any shoe pattern. The detectives saw only one set of footprints, and they also observed tire tracks in the mud were not consistent with a farm truck or a farm implement, according to the complaint.

Because McCandless had been found covered in mud and had arrived at the residence on foot, the detectives walked up the side of the muddy road and saw a vehicle matching the description of McCandless’s vehicle, the complaint states.

As they moved closer, they noted the vehicle was a 2003 Chevy Impala, which was later confirmed to be McCandless’s vehicle. The driver’s side rear door was standing open, and clothing items were lying on the ground.

As the detectives approached the vehicle, they could see the head and upper torso of an individual lying partially out of the driver’s side rear door, and it was apparent the person was deceased. There was blood around the vehicle and no signs of life. The detectives determined there were no other victims, so they backed out of the area to preserve what they believed to be a crime scene, according to the complaint.

Autopsy

On March 24, an autopsy was conducted at the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The deceased subject was identified as Alexander L. Woodworth, and the preliminary report indicates the cause of death was multiple sharp force injuries. The manner of death was homicide. The report indicated there were sixteen stab wounds on Woodworth’s body, according to the complaint.

Investigators from Dunn County and the Eau Claire Police Department spoke with McCandless at Mayo-Eau Claire on March 24.

McCandless said she had driven to Woodworth’s residence to return some items. They had decided they wanted to talk and went to a public place. McCandless and Woodworth eventually ended up on 430th Avenue in the Town of Spring Brook where they got stuck in the mud on the dirt road, according to the complaint.

McCandless said Woodworth attacked her in the vehicle and carved the word “boy” into her arm. McCandless said she grabbed the blade of the knife, was able to get it away from Woodworth, and said she stabbed Woodworth “anywhere and everywhere.” McCandless told investigators, “I just started stabbing anything I could, everywhere,” the complaint states.

When investigators asked McCandless again how the word “boy” got on her arm, McCandless did not respond. When investigators asked McCandless if Woodworth put the word on her arm as she had said earlier, she answered “no” and admitted she had put the word on her arm in the car after she had stabbed Woodworth, according to the complaint.