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Judge approves delay in Moorhead murder-arson trial

Justin Marshall Critt

MOORHEAD — The trial of a man accused of beating a Moorhead woman to death and then setting ablaze the home she was house sitting has been postponed.

The trial for Justin Marshall Critt, 40, had been scheduled to start Monday, Dec. 4, in Clay County District Court. But Judge Michelle Lawson granted a defense request to postpone the trial because defense attorney Stephen Ferrazzano was appointed to a judgeship and feels the transition to his new post would interfere with his ability to defend Critt.

A new trial date has not been set, but both sides have been instructed by Lawson to try to come up with a new trial date by Dec. 13. Possible dates include March 19, May 7 and June 11.

Lawson was told that defense attorney Bruce Ringstrom Jr. will likely take over the case from Ferrazzano, who was named by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to a judgeship in the 5th Judicial District.

Critt is accused of killing Melissa Willcoxon, 49, with a hammer on June 28, 2016, at 1019 11th Ave. S. He faces charges of second-degree murder and first-degree arson.

According to court documents:

Police went to the home June 28 on a report of an intoxicated man. Officers found Critt on a bed in the basement. Critt left the home and tried to take power tools and a bike, but was told to leave them. Police left about 3 p.m.

Critt then asked the woman who owned the home if he could get his property, and Willcoxon called the woman to say Critt had returned.

A witness told police he saw a man run from the house about 4:15 p.m. and ride away on a bicycle, carrying a sack.

Shortly after 4:30 p.m., firefighters were dispatched to a fire at the house and found Willcoxon's body.

Critt was detained and denied setting the fire or killing Willcoxon. But an acquaintance of Critt told detectives Critt said he had killed someone.

Investigators found a hammer near Willcoxon's body. Autopsy results showed Willcoxon had a head injury consistent with a hammer strike.

A lab test confirmed a splatter mark on Critt's shirt was Willcoxon's blood, court documents said.

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