Washek ordered to stand trial for murder — (Minot Daily News)

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Minot Daily News

By DAVE CALDWELL, Staff Writer dcaldwell@minotdailynews.com

Jay Washek, center, is led through the Ward County Courthouse Thursday by Ward County Sheriff’s Department officers on the way to Washek’s preliminary hearing on a Class AA felony murder charge.

The man accused of murdering a Plaza woman in northwest Minot in April was ordered Thursday in Northwest District Court to stand trial on the charge.

His attorney requested a 90-day extension to file motions in the case, expressing concern that media coverage of the case has tainted his client’s chances for a fair trial.

Jay Washek, 42, of Minot, appeared before Judge William McLees in a hearing to determine whether probable cause exists in a case where Washek allegedly murdered 28-year-old Jennifer Erickson of Plaza. Erickson, the mother of Washek’s 4-year-old son, was found in a bedroom in Washek’s apartment on April 30 after having been strangled to death with a telephone cord. Her body was discovered by police acting on a tip from Washek, who had been jailed on a domestic assault charge earlier that morning for allegedly striking and choking his mother. Washek allegedly told corrections staff at the Ward County Jail to have police drive by his apartment because “something bad happened there.”

Washek’s attorney, Robert Martin, who is the supervising attorney at the Minot office of the North Dakota Legal Counsel for Indigents, questioned Lt. Dan Strandberg of the Minot Police Department on whether police acted properly in searching Washek’s apartment. Martin also said that Washek, who has been deemed mentally ill and has been committed three times for treatment as recently as 2005, had been known to experience aggressiveness and auditory hallucinations in association with a drug called Cymbalta. Washek’s mother, according to Martin, was planning to have Washek committed the next morning because he was hallucinating and acting “distant.” Martin argued that due to his mental illness, Washek was not competent to sign a consent to search or even a Miranda waiver. In addition, Martin said that Washek had only asked police to “drive by” his home and had never indicated he wanted anyone to enter the residence, and that Washek had more than once told detectives while he was being interviewed that he did not wish to talk about the alleged incident.

Ward County State’s Attorney John Van Grinsven III countered by having Strandberg establish on redirect that Washek’s residence was initially entered due to Washek’s statement that “something bad” had happened, and also because of the earlier incident with Washek’s mother. Strandberg also stated that Erickson was allegedly killed due to an argument with Washek after Washek had choked his son.

The court found that probable cause existed to charge Washek in the crime, at which time Washek entered an innocent plea.

Telling McLees that he anticipated filing numerous motions in the case, many due to mental health issues with his client, Martin requested the motions deadline in the case be extended from June 11 to Sept. 11. Martin also said that he wanted to explore the possibility of having Minot State University or another organization conduct a poll in an attempt to find out if the jury pool has been tainted by media coverage of the case.