A 23-year-old Walker man was arraigned Friday in a Bemidji courthouse on charges of third-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the death of his pregnant girlfriend and her unborn child in a vehicle accident Wednesday near Backus.
The judge set bail for Wesley Armstrong, 23, Walker, at $100,000, according to Cass County Attorney Earl Maus. Armstrong's next court appearance will be 9 a.m. Monday at the Cass County Courthouse in Walker.
According to the criminal complaint against Armstrong, at 1:41 p.m. Wednesday the Cass County Sheriff's Department received a call of a traffic accident about one mile south of Backus on Highway 371.
According to the criminal complaint, a Cass County Sheriff's Department investigator spoke with the victim's 5-year-old daughter who said that Armstrong and her mother had been arguing in the vehicle. The child said that Armstrong had let go of the vehicle and grabbed her mother with both hands.
SPOTTED: » SUV crash near Backus 20 Photos
Upon arrival at the scene, officers observed a 1998 GMC sport utility vehicle on its left side that was stuck in a grove of trees on the right side of the roadway. The vehicle had been traveling northbound on Highway 371 at the time it left the roadway to the right. Three people were found inside the vehicle, including Armstrong; his girlfriend, LaToya Burks, 21, of Walker, whose relatives previously told the Dispatch was nine months pregnant; and Burks' 5-year-old daughter, Anton Charfaurus.
Armstrong and Charfaurus were transported to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd and treated for their injuries. Burks and her unborn child did not survive the accident. Cass County Medical Examiner Michael B. McGee has provisionally ruled the cause of death to be multiple traumatic injuries due to a motor vehicle accident.
According to the criminal complaint, a Cass County Sheriff's Department investigator spoke with the victim's 5-year-old daughter who said that Armstrong and her mother had been arguing in the vehicle. The child said that Armstrong had let go of the vehicle and grabbed her mother with both hands. She also said Armstrong had been squeezing her mother's hair with his hands and her mother was wearing a wig and had pulled it off her head. The child said the vehicle went off the roadway after Armstrong let go of the steering wheel and grabbed her mother.
Armstrong told a state trooper at the hospital that he had been arguing with Burks over a money issue. Armstrong also said he had grabbed her wig off her head and thrown it in the back seat. He further stated that Burks had then grabbed the wheel, causing him to lose control of the vehicle. The criminal complaint noted that while at the hospital, Armstrong, who had been placed in a wheelchair, had approached Burks' 5-year-old daughter and told her that she did not have to talk to the police prior to questioning there by the officers. The child was interviewed at the Brainerd hospital and also at the Cass County Sheriff's Department about the accident. The criminal complaint noted that in all of the interviews the child indicated that Armstrong had threatened her mother and had grabbed her before the accident occurred. The child also said she had been seated in the back seat of the vehicle wearing her seatbelt.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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