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Not guilty plea from Willmar woman charged in infant's death

OLIVIA -- Nicolle Marie Mercedes Prechel, 31, of Willmar, forfeited her opportunity to challenge whether there was probable cause for felony charges of criminal vehicular homicide.

She entered not guilty pleas to felony charges of criminal vehicular homicide during an appearance Monday in district court in Olivia. She is charged with having been intoxicated when she allegedly backed her van over a tent and killed 3½-month-old Whyatt Sander of Redwood Falls on July 5 in Renville County's Beaver Falls park. Monday's court appearance was scheduled as an omnibus hearing on whether probable cause existed for the charges against her. They carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

Prechel's defense counsel told the court they saw no need to challenge the factual basis for the charges, nor did they have any constitutional issues to bring before the court.

By formally entering not guilty pleas to the charges, Prechel set in motion a possible jury trial on the charges.

Prechel, who appeared in court wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, has been held in the Renville County Jail since her arrest on the day of the incident despite a reduction in her bail. Family members, including Sheena Hinshaw and Jacob Sander, parents of the victim and relatives of Prechel, were among those who witnessed the brief proceeding.

It followed discussions in chambers involving District Judge Steven Drange and the attorneys involved in the case, prosecutor Glen Jacobsen with the Renville County Attorney's office and defense attorney Curt Reese and Joseph Parise of the public defender's office.

At an earlier hearing, Judge Drange told the attorneys he did not want to see a last minute plea agreement resolve the matter. He reiterated that point on Monday. He told the attorneys that a plea could be worked out up until the date of a pre-trial conference on Sept. 28. After that date, he told the attorneys he would only accept a straight plea to the charges filed against her.

The court set Oct. 28 as the date for a trial.


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