The attorney for the Stanley woman charged in the death of an Eau Claire man plans to file motions to suppress statements she made after the late March stabbing.
Appearing before Dunn County Judge James Peterson during a status hearing Monday, Aaron Nelson said he has concerns about the admissibility and reliability of statements Ezra McCandless made to law enforcement officers after the body of 24-year-old Alexander L. Woodworth was discovered in a car parked on a farm road in the town of Spring Brook.
Peterson set a deadline of July 20 for Nelson to file his motions. If filed, a half-day hearing has been set for Thursday, Aug. 23. Also discussed was a possible start for a trial — expected to last three weeks — on Jan. 28, 2019.
Nelson alerted the judge to a potential change in the not guilty plea McCandless entered on May 22 after she was deemed competent to stand trial. Predicated on the potential trial start date, Nelson suggested a deadline of Oct. 1 to make that determination.
Should the plea be amended to not guilty due to mental disease or defect, the state would need enough time to have experts interview McCandless before the trial begins.
Appearing by telephone, Assistant Attorney General Richard DuFour advised that the state intends to release Woodworth’s body to his family at this time. Nelson told Judge Peterson that the defense has no intention of asking for an independent examination of the victim’s remains.
On March 23, Woodworth was found stabbed to death in a vehicle parked on a muddy farm track off 430th Avenue in the town of Spring Brook.
Declared dead at the scene, his body was transported to the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office in Minnesota, and a preliminary autopsy report by forensic pathologist Kelly Mills revealed that Woodworth had sustained 16 deep, penetrating stab wounds. The cause of death was found to be multiple sharp force injuries, and the manner of death was homicide.
About 4:15 p.m. on March 22, law enforcement received a call from Don Sipple, who lives on the E7600 block near the scene. He reported that a young woman — muddy, bloody, in torn clothes and wearing no shoes — had come to his house.
According to the report of the deputy who responded, he tried to talk to the woman, described as upset and crying. She was transported to the Mayo Clinic Health System hospital in Eau Claire, where she was later identified as Ezra McCandless.
The scene of the crime was documented and searched by Wisconsin State Crime Lab investigators assisted by the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office and Wisconsin State Patrol. On March 24, a grid search in the snow around where the vehicle was found — about a quarter-mile from Sipple’s residence — was conducted to search for further evidence.
A folding pocket knife was found as well as foot tracks in the snow and the back cover of a cell phone. Although a search for Woodworth’s phone on March 27 proved unsuccessful, his L6 cell phone was found two days later in the melting snow 100 feet to 150 feet from where the knife had been found. The battery was not in the phone.
Questioned about the injuries McCandless had on her body, Sgt. Scott McRoberts testified during the preliminary hearing on April 25 that he saw the word “boy” carved into her left arm, shallow punctures on her inner groin and upper right thigh, and scratches on one of her hands.
According to the criminal complaint:
The doctor who examined McCandless on March 22 reported that the angle of the wounds indicate that they could be self-inflicted, and the letters carved in her left arm were oriented for her to look at. McCandless admitted to medical staff that she has self-harmed in the past.
Asked what happened on March 22, McCandless admitted to being at Woodworth’s home and left to go to Owen Park in the city, where she claimed that Woodworth allegedly attacked her and cut “boy” into her arm.
On March 23, investigators went to Sipple’s residence to interview him a second time. As they drove, they noticed a mud-covered road leading off to the south of 430th Avenue, about a 40-acre parcel east of Sipple’s home.
One of the investigators returned to the dirt road, where he found a single set of bare footprints in the mud and also observed tire tracks leading up the road.
Walking up the side of the road, the detectives located McCandless’s 2003 Chevy Impala. The driver’s side rear door was standing and what appeared to be the head and upper body of a person lying partly outside the door could be seen. With blood around the car and no signs of life, it was clear the person — identified later as Woodworth — was deceased.
On March 24, McCandless told investigators she drove to Woodworth’s house to return some things to him.
They wanted to talk with each other, and McCandless said they ended up on a dirt road in Dunn County where they got stuck in the mud. She alleged that Woodworth attacked her in the vehicle and carved the word “boy” into her arm. Grabbing the blade side of the knife, she said she was able to take the blade from Woodworth and admitted to stabbing him “anywhere and everywhere.”
She later admitted she cut the word into her arm after she stabbed Woodworth.
McCandless remains in custody in the Dunn County Jail on a $250,000 cash bond.