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Published April 17, 2012, 03:17 PM

Jury Seated in Cooperstown Murder Trial

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. – A jury was sworn in at 1:30 p.m. in the murder trial of a Cooperstown man accused of shooting and then beheading a North Dakota State University researcher.

By: Mike Nowatzki, Forum Communications

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. – A jury was sworn in at 1:30 p.m. in the murder trial of a Cooperstown man accused of shooting and then beheading a North Dakota State University researcher.

In jury selection that began Monday morning, a pool of 90 candidates was whittled to a panel of eight men, and six women in the Griggs County District Court trial for 31-year-old Daniel Evan Wacht.

Opening arguments were set to begin about 2 p.m.

Wacht, accused of murdering Kurt Johnson sometime between Dec. 31, 2010, and Jan. 5., 2011, was dressed in a red button-up shirt with thin white stripes, black slacks and wearing thin black-rimmed rectangular glasses.

He faces up to life in prison without parole if convicted of killing Johnson, a Cooperstown-based NDSU researcher last seen alive leaving the Oasis Bar with Wacht on New Year’s Eve in 2010.

Wacht has admitted giving the 54-year-old Johnson a ride that night but denies killing him.

Johnson’s head was found in the basement of Wacht’s rental home with what appeared to be a bullet hole in the forehead, court documents state. Johnson’s body has not been recovered.

Security is extremely tight at the courthouse, with extra guards from neighboring counties and the North Dakota Highway Patrol stationed inside and outside the courtroom. A sheriff’s deputy was ink-stamping the hands of visitors after they passed through the metal detector set up at the only working entrance to the 129-year-old Griggs County Courthouse, which Sheriff Robert Hook said hasn’t hosted a murder trial since 1929.

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