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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A 21-year-old woman accused in the death of Alexander Woodworth in the Town of Spring Brook last March has withdrawn her plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
Ezra J. McCandless appeared with her attorney, Aaron A. Nelson, before Judge James Peterson and withdrew her plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in Dunn County Circuit Court February 6.
McCandless’s plea of “not guilty” remains.
Section 971.15 of the Wisconsin Statutes defines not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, which is also referred to as “NGI.” A defendant can be considered NGI if the defendant lacks the capacity to understand his or her conduct was wrong and is so ill, he or she cannot understand what has been done is illegal. A defendant also can be considered NGI if the person is so ill, he or she cannot control his or her actions.
In the case of a trial where a defendant has pleaded NGI, the prosecution must prove the person is guilty of the crime, and it is then up to the defendant to convince the jury that he or she is not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
Nelson also had filed a motion with the court to obtain transcripts of video and/or audio recordings in the possession of the prosecution and to find out what parts of the statements made by McCandless the prosecution intends to use at trial.
The case is being prosecuted by state Assistant Attorney General Richard Dufour.
In addition, Nelson filed a motion with the court to obtain certain evidence in the possession of the prosecution, and Judge Peterson ordered the prosecution to prepare a response.
Nelson filed a motion as well to modify the instructions to the jury, and Judge Peterson said he would take up the motion at trial.
A number of other motions were filed, too, with both Nelson and Dufour asking for responses or indicating they had filed responses.
Dufour told the court that he will be requesting to use a juror questionnaire and planned to provide the questionnaire to Nelson within the next week.
Nelson said he was not going to request a juror questionnaire.
Judge Peterson ordered the prosecution’s juror questionnaire be provided to Nelson by February 8.
The body of Alexander Woodworth was found in a car identified as belonging to McCandless in the Town of Spring Brook March 23, 2018. According to the preliminary autopsy report, Woodworth had been stabbed 16 times.
The owner of a residence in the Town of Spring Brook called 911 the afternoon of March 22 when a young woman came to his house with torn clothes, muddy pants, no shoes and blood on her face and hands.
McCandless is charged with a single count of first degree intentional homicide, a Class A felony which carries a mandatory penalty, if convicted, of life in prison.
Bail was set for McCandless at $250,000 cash on March 29, 2018.
At the time of the February 6 hearing, McCandless remained in custody at the Dunn County jail.
Another motion hearing is scheduled for March 8.
A three and a half week jury trial is scheduled in April.