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Prosecutors say it was an attempted murder on a North Dakota highway, but few details are public

More information may come out if preliminary hearing is contested.

Dazechnae Willis dob Jan. 20, 1993
Dazechnae Willis

BISMARCK — Prosecutors allege that a woman tried to use her vehicle to murder a motorcyclist on a highway in North Dakota in 2019.

The man on the motorcycle, Kelsey Schaefer, suffered severe injuries, but survived the collision. Prosecutors have charged the woman, Dazechnae Willis, 28, of Colorado, with attempted murder.

To date, information filed with the court sheds very little light on why prosecutors believe Willis intentionally tried to kill Schaefer, but the case apparently is not related to road rage, according to Burleigh County State's Attorney Julie Lawyer.

"I wouldn't classify it as that, as it didn't appear that there was any prior contact between the victim and the defendant," Lawyer told The Forum.

Much of what Lawyer's office has made public about the case is contained in an affidavit that states Schaefer was riding a motorcycle on U.S. Highway 83 near Baldwin, North Dakota, a town about 17 miles north of Bismarck, on Aug. 28, 2019, when Willis' vehicle struck Schaefer's motorcycle from behind.

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Investigators determined through a reconstruction of the crash that Willis did no braking before striking Schaefer at an estimated speed of 107 mph, the affidavit said.

After the contact was made, Schaefer and his motorcycle were thrown under the wheels of a semitrailer that was traveling next to where Willis' vehicle struck the motorcycle.

Schaefer received multiple injuries, including a serious brain injury that required months of hospitalization and physical therapy, according to the affidavit.

Willis and two minor children who were in her vehicle were not hurt in the crash, and Willis did not have liability coverage when the crash occurred, the affidavit said.

Willis was charged in Burleigh County District Court on Oct. 5 with attempted murder as well as one count each of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. On Oct. 13, a warrant was issued for her arrest and she was subsequently arrested in Colorado.

Willis waived extradition to North Dakota, and she has been released from custody after posting $5,000 cash bond and agreeing not to leave the state.

Robert Quick, an attorney representing Willis, declined to comment on the case. Willis has a preliminary hearing set for Monday, Dec. 27.

The attempted murder charge alleges Willis intentionally engaged in conduct that constituted a substantial step toward intentionally causing the death of another and that, specifically, she struck Schaefer's motorcycle with her vehicle traveling at high speeds intending to cause his death.

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How prosecutors plan to prove Willis intended to kill Schaefer when her vehicle collided with his motorcycle is not spelled out in court papers, but Lawyer hinted that the prosecution's case is deeper than what has been revealed so far.

"I know that the court records and the open records at this point are very scant and we do that on purpose," Lawyer told The Forum, adding that the prosecution has more information that it hasn't revealed publicly.

"Because for (attempted murder) we have to show that it was intentional and that she (Willis) intentionally engaged in conduct that intended to kill another person," Lawyer said.

"I can't tell you what all that information is at this point because it's not all public record," she added, noting that if the defense requests a contested preliminary hearing a lot of what hasn't been revealed "will become public record."

Lawyer told the Bismarck Tribune that the roughly two-year period between when the crash happened and when charges were filed was due to the complex nature of the investigation and the time it took to collect the necessary records to determine appropriate charges.

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