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Duluth father, son accused of trying to conceal accident that injured girl

A car accident early Friday morning left Zadie Morgan with numerous broken bones. In court Tuesday, the prosecuting attorney said the driver and his father tried to downplay her injuries cover up the accident. (Submitted photo)

Eighteen-year-old Zadie Morgan drifted in and out of consciousness after an early Friday traffic accident. Bones in her face were broken. Her nose was hanging by a small amount of flesh still attached to her lower left nostril.

But instead of seeking medical attention for Morgan, Christopher Daniel Wilczek, the driver of the 1995 Chevy Blazer in which the couple was riding, phoned his father. The two Wilczeks, of Duluth, allegedly then dropped Morgan off at her home with her severe injuries. They are now accused of attempting to conceal the accident.

That scenario is painted in court documents in a case that came before Judge John DeSanto on Tuesday.

"I've never seen such ungodly and inhumane behavior as the way they handled my child," Shaun Morgan told the News Tribune of his daughter, who will be a senior at Hermantown High School next fall. "She's undergoing three surgeries today. Every bone in her face is broken.''

Christopher Wilczek, who turns 18 on Thursday, appeared in St. Louis County juvenile court in Duluth charged with criminal vehicular operation while under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily harm, leaving the scene of an accident, leaving the scene of an accident with injury to person and failing to stop and report an accident involving personal injury. His father, Daniel Joseph Wilczek, 51, is charged with two felony counts of aiding an offender.

Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Charles Schumacher told the court that the teenagers had attended a "pit party'' near Sunshine Lake. Christopher Wilczek had been drinking heavily and the couple left about 1:30 a.m. on Friday, authorities contend. Wilczek initially denied drinking that night but later said he had two beers at about 7 p.m.

According to court documents, Christopher Wilczek told St. Louis County sheriff's deputies that his Chevy Blazer hit a pothole, which caused him to go off the road and into a tree. He said his driver's-side air bag deployed, but the vehicle was not equipped with a passenger-side air bag. After the impact, he said Morgan appeared to be unconscious and not breathing.

He said he attempted to perform CPR on her.

The youth said he drove about a half-mile down the road to get cell service. He said he used Morgan's phone to call his father because his phone was lost in the accident. When asked by deputies why he didn't call 911, the teenager said he thought his dad could respond faster than emergency personnel and would know what to do.

Incident accounts differ

* Daniel Wilczek is being represented by Duluth defense attorney Richard Holmstrom. According to Holmstrom: Daniel Wilczek got a phone call from his son, telling him he was involved in an accident. He said the teenager ran a quarter of a mile to make the call because there was no cell phone coverage in the area of the accident. Holmstrom said that it took his client an hour to an hour-and-a-half to find the scene of the son's accident.

According to a tow truck driver, Daniel Wilczek called to have the Blazer towed from the scene of the accident north of Twig at about 3:45 a.m.

When Daniel Wilczek got there, Holmstrom said, he could tell that the young woman was injured but he didn't think the injuries were as serious as they were later revealed to be. They immediately got the victim into the car and drove her home and the woman walked into her house, he said.

"My client left a business card with his name on it and her parents took the girl to the hospital,'' Holmstrom said.

* Morgan's stepmother told a deputy that the victim was dropped off by a man and his teenage son at her residence at about 4:08 a.m. She also told deputies that when Christopher Wilczek continually apologized to her, her stepdaughter and husband, Daniel Wilczek told his son to be quiet.

According to court documents, Christopher Wilczek said his clothing was drenched in Morgan's blood at the accident scene as he attempted to perform CPR on her. Yet Morgan's stepmother told a deputy that both Wilczeks were wearing clean clothing without any bloodstains when they dropped the victim off at her home.

Daniel Wilczek allegedly told Morgan's father and stepmother that the two teenagers had been in an accident and that Morgan had a few small cuts on her face. But the victim's father and stepmother said they knew immediately that she had to go to the hospital and took her there.

According to the criminal complaint against Daniel Wilczek, a deputy asked him if he got a good look at the victim's face. He said he had and that the injuries were "very minor,'' the complaint alleges.

* Shaun Morgan told investigators that his daughter remembers going to the Wilczek residence, where the co-defendants attempted to give her water and clean her up before taking her home.


In court Tuesday, Schumacher, the prosecutor, told Judge DeSanto that he doesn't know anyone familiar with the case who isn't outraged. Schumacher said the criminal facts are as egregious as any case court personnel have ever encountered.

Countering that, Holmstrom told the News Tribune: "The important thing to emphasize is that there was no cell phone coverage at the scene. It was the middle of the night. It was raining hard. In my opinion, there is too much Monday-morning quarterbacking going on by the county attorney's office.''

Schumacher asked the court to hold Christopher Wilczek in detention pending future court hearings. He said the juvenile has a pattern of behavior that represents a threat to public safety. The teenager has prior drinking and driving convictions and convictions for disorderly conduct and marijuana. Schumacher told the court that there have been threats of retaliation against Christopher Wilczek for his alleged crimes in this case.

DeSanto ordered that Christopher Wilczek be held at Arrowhead Juvenile Center on $75,000 bail. If he is able to bail out, DeSanto said the juvenile must have no contact with his father, must stay with his grandmother and must be on electronic monitoring with an alcohol sensor. His pretrial hearing is scheduled for June 24. However, he could be in court before then. Schumacher told DeSanto that the county attorney's office is contemplating whether to attempt to certify the teenager to stand trial as an adult.

Daniel Wilczek is free on $20,000 bail. His next court hearing is scheduled for June 30. Reached by phone at his home, he was asked how he determined that Morgan's injuries were minor, and why he didn't seek medical attention for her.

"I've been instructed not to comment,'' he said. "The allegations are not accurate.'' He then hung up.