RAPID CITY, S.D. — A Washington state man accused of trying to kill a South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper wants his case handled separately from his three co-defendants.
Donald Willingham, 34, of Renton, Washington, is accused in the Oct. 24, 2015, beating of Trooper Zachary Bader during a traffic stop on Interstate 90 east of Rapid City. The traffic stop ultimately led to the recovery of more than 50 pounds of marijuana, $33,000 in cash and a handgun, authorities said.
Willingham has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, aggravated assault, and drug and weapons charges. The other three people charged in the case have pleaded not guilty to being accessories, and to drug and weapons charges. Willingham’s defense maintains that if they’re all tried together, any incriminating statements the co-defendants make about him could hurt his case because he would not have the opportunity to cross-examine them.
Prosecutor Josh Hendrickson told the Rapid City Journal that he likely won’t object to the request. Circuit Judge Wally Eklund is expected to rule at an April 26 hearing.
Bader spent two weeks at a Rapid City hospital being treated for his injuries, which included skull and facial fractures.
Willingham has been unable to post $5 million bond and remains jailed, along with co-defendant Jonathan Melendez, 22, of Kent, Washington, whose bail was set at $50,000. Siblings Desiree Sukert, 26, and Chase Sukert, 23, both of Renton, Washington, have each posted $50,000 bond and been released.