Posted on

Delay sought in trial for double drunk driving homicide

A jury trial in the case of a Humbird man who allegedly killed two Neillsville women in December 2017 while driving drunk may be delayed on a request from prosecutors. The new district attorney who began work in Clark County less than two months ago is requesting the delay so she has more time to get up to speed in the case.

The court has scheduled a 2-week trial beginning on March 23 in the case against 28-year-old Trenton Bemis, who was driving a vehicle on U.S. Highway 10 just west of Neillsville on Dec. 15, 2017, when it crossed the centerline in snowy conditions and ran head-on into a car carrying two Neillsville women. Both the driver, 29-year-old Michelle Kunze, and her passenger, 35-year-old Genie Carrillo, were pronounced dead at the scene, and Bemis was treated for significant injuries.

Two charges of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle were filed against Bemis about six weeks after the crash and the case was being handled by former Clark County Assistant District Attorney Holly Wood Webster. However, Wood Webster resigned from her position recently, joining former District Attorney Kerra Stumbris, who resigned late last October.

In a motion filed with the court on Jan. 29, new District Attorney Melissa Inlow has requested an adjournment of the trial for “a short time” so she and the state assistant attorney general who are working on the case have more time to prepare. The motion reads, in part, “given the complex nature of this case, the lengthy procedural history, and the extensive discovery, the State will need additional time to prepare for trial.”

Inlow, who was sworn in as Clark County DA on Dec. 27, said she needs time to familiarize herself with the case as Wood Webster had prepared it. “It is not the state’s intent to change the tenor of this case or undermine anything that has previously been done,” the motion reads.

Also, the motion states, two key witnesses in the case will not be available during the first week of the trial as scheduled, and the assistant attorney general will not be available in its scheduled second week.

Inlow said in her motion, “The State has spoken with the victims about this request, and while they are eager for a resolution in this case, they understand and do not oppose (the adjournment).”

Inlow also indicated that she had contacted Bemis’ attorney but had not heard back on whether or not he would oppose a delay.

Bemis has not been in custody since mid-February 2018, when he posted a $15,000 cash bond. Terms of his bond allow him to operate a vehicle for work purposes on his employer’s premises, but not on public roads.

Bemis requested a substitute for Clark County Circuit Court Judge Lyndsey Boon Brunette in March of 2018, and Judge Robert Shannon was assigned to the case. Various hearings have been held in the case, including one on a motion from Bemis to have the post-accident blood tests excluded from the trial. Shannon denied that motion.

In addition to Inlow’s request for a trial adjournment, a restitution order was also filed last week. That order seeks $550,000 from Bemis in compensation for damages caused in the crash.

Shannon had not ruled on the motion for adjournment as of Feb. 4.