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Plea bargain possible in fatal drunk driving case

MEDFORD, Wis (WSAU-Wheeler News)  A plea deal may be in the works for an alleged drunk driver accused of killing a deer hunter and injuring another in northern Wisconsin.

The lawyer for 42-year-old James Winchel of Sheldon said talks were taking place on possible settlements, but he did not elaborate. Time limits for a preliminary hearing were waived when Winchel made an initial appearance in Taylor County Circuit Court yesterday on four criminal charges. They include causing death-and-injury by drunk driving.

Prosecutors said Winchel's blood alcohol level was 0.196, almost two-and-a-half times the legal limit, when he allegedly hit two members of a hunting party near Gilman on November 29th. 52-year-old Juan Salinas of Roscoe Illinois was killed, and one of his relatives and Winchel were hospitalized with injuries.

A pre-trial conference in the case is set for March 14th.

He also faces a traffic citation for driving without insurance.

Circuit Judge Ann Knox-Bauer refused to reduce Winchel's $50,000 bond -- which could have allowed him to enter substance abuse treatment. Winchel has been convicted of O-W-I four previous times since 1998.