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Murder case against Wright delayed by evidence issues

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Park Rapids,Minnesota 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
Murder case against Wright delayed by evidence issues
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

On Jan. 29 Jenny Larson had just arrived from her home in the Twin Cities after receiving a text message from Sonya Hennagir that things were not OK in the home. Larson was too late.


Richard Derek Wright, a 41-year-old pipeline worker, was charged with strangling Hennagir, attempting to kill Larson and other crimes related to Hennagir's death. Six months later, the case has been delayed again as attorneys for both sides assemble their evidence and witnesses for an eventual trial. The evidentiary hearing scheduled for Aug. 13 was postponed - again. It's now set for Oct. 8.

Attorneys for both sides cannot discuss the case, but the court file gives a glimpse of what has transpired since the murder and the legal wrangling going on behind the scenes.

Wright is in jail on a $1.2 million bond.

Prosecution and defense attorneys have made numerous evidentiary requests including DNA samples, crime lab results and reports, witness statements and statements and payments to confidential sources who assisted in the investigation.

Attorneys are also arguing over a change of venue. Defense attorney Jay Sommer maintains that extensive pre-trial publicity tainted a jury pool. Sommer wants the case moved out of Hubbard County.

He has subpoenaed records from the Enterprise relating to Web site comments, the number of "hits" each story received, and letters to the editor.

Larson was injured and unable to work for a period of time after the murder. She was compensated more than $3,700 by the Minnesota Crime Victims Reparations Board for medical expenses and lost work time.

Hennagir's father, Walter Ellis, received almost $6,000 from the Crime Victims Reparations Board to cover his daughter's funeral expenses.

The Pennsylvania pipeline company Wright had been working for fired him on the day of his arrest. He had transient employment as a pipeline worker since 2004. Although court records indicated that he had earned $62,000 between 2007 and the time of his arrest, he was considered indigent and has a public defender.

Wright's wife, Dawn, filed for divorce and custody of the couple's three children. The family resides in Michigan.

Wright's troubled past includes convictions for assault and armed robbery.

He is charged with second-degree murder in Hennagir's death. Second degree murder, punishable by a maximum penalty of 40 years, is defined as intentionally causing a death, but without premeditation.

Wright also faces attempted first degree murder in the assault on Larson. That charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.

No trial date has been set.