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Published April 05, 2012, 12:03 AM

Cooperstown Murder Suspect Seeks to Suppress Evidence

Recordings may have hinted at possible motive for killing NDSU professor
COOPERSTOWN, N.D. – A Cooperstown man scheduled to stand trial this month in the murder of a North Dakota State University researcher wants a judge to suppress testimony about statements he allegedly made that point to a possible motive for the killing.

By: Mike Nowatzki, Forum Communications

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. – A Cooperstown man scheduled to stand trial this month in the murder of a North Dakota State University researcher wants a judge to suppress testimony about statements he allegedly made that point to a possible motive for the killing.

Daniel Evan Wacht, 31, faces life in prison without parole if convicted of shooting and decapitating NDSU researcher Kurt Johnson, who was last seen alive on New Year’s Eve 2010.

Johnson’s severed head was discovered in Wacht’s basement on Jan. 4, 2011. His body has not been recovered.

Wacht has pleaded not guilty and denies killing Johnson. His jury trial is slated to begin April 16.

In a brief filed this week, his attorney, Steven Mottinger, asked the judge to suppress testimony from a witness regarding a conversation about gangs that he and Wacht allegedly had on Dec. 18, 2010.

Wacht allegedly talked about “blowing up something or killing someone to make a statement for the gang, and shooting guns,” the brief states.

The witness is now an inmate at the James River Correctional Facility in Jamestown. The prosecution’s request to have him transported to Cooperstown for the trial states that he heard Wacht say he was going to “blow up a place or kill somebody.”

Previous testimony given during a probable cause hearing alleged Wacht said he was planning a murder or explosion to get notice for the Aryan Nation, a white supremacist gang.

Mottinger contends the only possible purpose for the witness’ testimony is to show that Wacht “has a violent proclivity and acted in accordance with it.”

The testimony would prejudice Wacht and “does nothing to show any possible plan, motive, intent, opportunity, or preparation to commit the alleged crime,” Mottinger wrote.

For similar reasons, Mottinger also wants the judge to suppress:

- Evidence of an alleged incident in which a man was asked by Wacht to hold a gun to his head and become a gang member.

- Testimony about an alleged discussion Wacht had with his roommate in which Wacht talked about the idea of shooting an officer during a traffic stop.

- Work that Wacht sought to have done on his gun in December 2010, which Mottinger called “profoundly irrelevant.”

- Mottinger also seeks to suppress documents related to Wacht’s criminal history and a warrant out of California.

The state hadn’t filed a response to Mottinger’s brief as of Wednesday afternoon.

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