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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A Dunn County judge has ordered that a transcript of the victim’s writing in the Spring Brook homicide case be submitted to the court and then sealed.
Ezra J. McCandless appeared with her attorney, Aaron A. Nelson, before Judge James Peterson for a motion hearing in Dunn County Circuit Court April 4.
McCandless, 21, is accused in the stabbing death of 24-year-old Alexander Woodworth in the Town of Spring Brook in March of 2018.
Nelson raised the issue of writing produced by Woodworth being introduced as evidence under a McMorris motion.
Evidence of a victim’s prior violent behavior is known as “McMorris evidence.”
The evidence is named after a 1973 case, McMorris vs. State, in which the court determined that when the character or the reputation of the victim is not an issue, the evidence is not relevant, but in homicide or assault trials, when self-defense is raised as an issue, evidence of the dangerous behavior or reputation of the victim is relevant in determining who was the aggressor, the victim or the accused, and whether the accused could reasonably conclude that he or she was in danger at the time of the incident.
During the preliminary hearing in April of 2018, Nelson said McCandless had told investigators Woodworth had attacked her, which is prima facie (accepted as correct until proved otherwise) evidence of self-defense.
In a “prima facie” case, often described as “open and shut,” evidence before the trial is sufficient to prove the case unless substantial contradictory evidence is presented at the trial.
Self-defense is an element of the case the state must disprove, Nelson said at the preliminary hearing in 2018.
Richard Dufour, an assistant state attorney general who is the prosecutor in the case, said at the April 4 hearing that Woodworth’s writings are not relevant when considered in their entirety.
Nelson and Dufour argued back and forth about the relevance of the character evidence of Woodworth’s writings.
Judge Peterson ordered Nelson to submit a transcript of the writing by May 3 and that the transcript then be sealed.
Judge Peterson set a deadline of June 7 for Dufour to respond about any discrepancy in the transcript.
Nelson and Dufour also made arguments about McCandless’s self-injury.
McCandless told investigators Woodworth had attacked her in the vehicle and had carved the word “boy” into her arm, according to the criminal complaint.
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.
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, 2018, when a young woman came to his house with torn clothes, muddy pants, no shoes and blood on her face and hands.
A three-week trial scheduled to start April 3 was rescheduled for October during a court hearing March 22.
Both Nelson and Dunn County District Attorney Andrea Nodolf told the court at the April 4 hearing that the jury dates and witness availability for the October trial “work.”
McCandless is charged with a single count of first degree intentional homicide with a modifier of use of a dangerous weapon, 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.
McCandless remained in custody at the time of the April 4 court hearing.
McCandless had previously pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect but withdrew the plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect at a court hearing on February 6.
Another motion hearing is scheduled June 25.