Driver's blood-alcohol level in fatal crash: 0.19% - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Driver's blood-alcohol level in fatal crash: 0.19%

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MEDFORD (WAOW) – A driver accused of plowing into a group of deer hunters, killing one, had a blood-alcohol level more that double the legal limit to drive, according to a criminal complaint.

James Winchel, 42, of Sheldon is charged with four felonies, including homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, in the Nov. 29 crash that killed Juan Salinas, 50, of Roscoe, Ill., and injured another man on a rural road in western Taylor County.

Winchel made his first court appearance Tuesday and a judge refused a request to modify Winchel's $50,000 cash bond to allow him to go into treatment, online court records said.

Winchel's attorney, Christopher Van Wagner, said talks are occurring on “possible settlements.” He declined to elaborate. A judge set a pretrial conference for March 14.

Salinas and his hunting group were walking along the road after coming out of some woods when he and another man were struck by a car Winchel was driving at least 50 mph, the criminal complaint said.

Investigators report the gun Salinas was carrying smashed through the windshield of car, striking Winchel, the complaint said.

Winchel's blood-alcohol level at the time was 0.196 percent, the complaint said.

Winchel, who had been convicted of drunken driving four times since 1998, told investigators he had five or six beers in the two hours before the crash and he was probably intoxicated, the complaint said.

“I was at the crest of the hill when I seen them in the road. I could see blaze orange in the road,” Winchel told investigators. “I hit the brakes. My car spun around.”

The road was packed with snow and ice at the time, but there were no “visible skid marks” indicating braking, the complaint said.

Some hunters told investigators they dove into a ditch to avoid being hit by the car, the complaint said.

The maximum punishment for homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle is 25 years in prison.

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