Charges filed: Salem man accused of grabbing steering wheel to force crash that injured wife

Justin Sampsel

RACINE -- A dangerous spat on the road in Racine County led to criminal charges against a Salem man. Investigators said Justin Sampsel caused his wife to crash their SUV into a tree.

Sampsel, 39, was charged with attempted first degree intentional homicide in connection with the incident that unfolded on a rural highway in Rochester on Saturday, Feb. 9. He made his initial appearance in court on Monday, Feb. 11.

Justin Sampsel

According to the criminal complaint, deputies responded to the intersection of County Highway A and County Highway J in Rochester. When they arrived on the scene, deputies found an SUV crashed into a tree. The operator of the vehicle, Sampsel's wife, was standing near the road with a bloody nose. The complaint indicated "Sampsel, who appeared to be highly intoxicated, was standing near the car." Deputies noted the airbags on the SUV had deployed.

Attempted homicide case in Rochester

The complaint said Sampsel's wife told investigators that "while stopped at a controlled intersection, Justin exited the car, but was eventually coaxed back in. After that, Justin grabbed the gear shifter and began rapidly shifting gears." The driver reporting that "Justin was saying that they were going to crash and hoped they both died. Justin then grabbed the steering wheel and yanked it, causing the car to drive off of the road and crash into a tree." The complaint indicated the SUV was traveling about 55 miles per hour at the time.

Attempted homicide case in Rochester

"The allegations seem to indicate that he was using the vehicle as a weapon," a prosecutor told the court.

Attempted homicide case in Rochester

Sampsel's wife told deputies Justin had consumed "wine, two glasses of whisky and approximately three beers" at a family party earlier that evening.

Cash bond was set at $20,000. He was ordered to have no contact with his wife, he cannot drive and he is not allowed to have any alcohol.

Sampsel is due back in court for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 21.

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