- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - A Washington state man accused of trying to kill a South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper last fall will have his case handled separately from his three co-defendants.

Donald Willingham, 34, of Renton, Washington, is accused in the Oct. 24, 2015, beating of Trooper Zachary Bader during a traffic stop on Interstate 90 east of Rapid City.

The traffic stop led to the recovery of more than 50 pounds of marijuana, $33,000 in cash and a handgun, authorities said. Bader spent two weeks at a Rapid City hospital being treated for injuries that included skull and facial fractures.

Willingham’s defense earlier this year asked for a separate trial, maintaining that three co-defendants have made incriminating statements about Willingham. Defense lawyers also want the ability to cross-examine the co-defendants at trial, which wouldn’t be possible in a joint trial.

Prosecutors didn’t object, and a judge on Tuesday granted the request. The judge will rule later on a separate defense motion to suppress statements Willingham made to police following his arrest.

Willingham has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, aggravated assault, and drug and weapons charges. He remains jailed on $5 million bond.

His co-defendants have each posted $50,000 bonds and been released. Jonathan Melendez, 22, of Kent, Washington, and siblings Desiree Sukert, 26, and Chase Sukert, 23, both of Renton, have pleaded not guilty to being accessories and to drug and weapons charges.

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