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Man accused of grabbing steering wheel to force crash that injured wife pleads not guilty

Justin Sampsel

RACINE COUNTY — A Kenosha man prosecutors said caused his wife to crash their SUV into a tree has pleaded not guilty to attempted homicide charges.

Justin Sampsel, 39, was in court Thursday, Feb. 21 for his preliminary hearing, which he waived. An arraignment was then held, and he pleaded not guilty. A status conference was scheduled for April 5.

Sampsel faces one count of attempted first degree intentional homicide, domestic abuse assessments — charged in connection with an incident that unfolded on a rural highway in Rochester in Racine County on Feb. 9. Cash bond was set at $20,000 when he made his initial appearance on Feb. 11, and it was posted on Feb. 18.

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.

Justin Sampsel

Attempted homicide case in Rochester

Justin Sampsel

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.

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

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