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Forum Communications, Published August 10 2012

Wacht appeals conviction in Cooperstown murder

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. – An appeal to the state Supreme Court of Daniel Wacht’s conviction for murdering a Cooperstown man was filed Friday in state district court in Griggs County.

Wacht, 31, is serving a life sentence without hope of parole in the state prison in Bismarck.

Defense attorney Steve Mottinger indicated he will appeal state District Judge James Hovey’s denial of the defense’s attempt to suppress evidence found in Wacht’s rented house.

Mottinger argued previously that the probable cause provided by investigators to get three search warrants Jan. 5, 2011, to search Wacht’s van and home was insufficient.

On the third search, the severed head of Kurt Johnson, with a bullet hole in the forehead, was found buried under two feet of dirt in the crawl space in Wacht’s basement. Prosecutors said Wacht shot Johnson after a night of drinking Dec. 31, 2010, then cut off his head. Johnson’s body hasn’t been found.

Hovey sentenced Wacht Aug. 1.

A jury in Cooperstown deliberated two hours April 24 before convicting Wacht of murdering Johnson.

Wacht, who moved to Cooperstown shortly after getting out of a California prison in August 2010, did not testify at his trial.