Trial set to begin today for Daniel Navarro, accused of hate crime in head-on crash that killed motorcyclist

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A memorial sits at the scene of a fatal crash on Winnebago Drive, just west of U.S. 151 near Fond du Lac, where Phillip Thiessen, 55, of Fond du Lac was killed June 3, 2020. Daniel Navarro of Fond du Lac is charged with using his vehicle to intentionally hit Thiessen, who was on a motorcycle.
A memorial sits at the scene of a fatal crash on Winnebago Drive, just west of U.S. 151 near Fond du Lac, where Phillip Thiessen, 55, of Fond du Lac was killed June 3, 2020. Daniel Navarro of Fond du Lac is charged with using his vehicle to intentionally hit Thiessen, who was on a motorcycle.

FOND DU LAC - A Fond du Lac man accused of purposely crashing head-on into a motorcyclist is scheduled to go on trial Monday in the July 2020 death of Phillip Thiessen.

Daniel D. Navarro, 29, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree recklessly endangering safety, both by means of a dangerous weapon. Both have been charged as hate crimes. Conviction on the first charge can carry a life sentence in prison; conviction on the second can carry a sentence of up to 12½ years and a fine of up to $25,000.

Navarro has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental illness.

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Fond du Lac County sheriff's deputies say Navarro admitted to them he was driving the pickup that struck and killed Theissen on July 3, 2020, near Winnebago Drive and Taycheedah Way in Taycheedah. Thiessen, 55, was a retired Wisconsin Department of Justice agent; Fairfax, Virginia, police officer; and U.S. Marine. Thiessen died the evening of the crash.

Fond du Lac County Sheriff's Sgt. Logan Will, who arrived at the scene within minutes of the crash, said Navarro admitted to him that the act was intentional, according to the criminal complaint, saying: "It was intentional, sir."

Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney filed both charges as hate crimes because Navarro said he had wanted to hit a white motorcyclist.

Navarro told police he targeted Thiessen because he expected someone riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle would "be a redneck" who was prejudiced against nonwhites. A criminal complaint says Navarro also believed white "rednecks" were harassing him — sometimes using chemicals to do so — because he is Latino. But while he claims he targeted Thiessen because he thought he was white, he was not able to tell what race he was because the vehicle's headlight shined in his eyes.

On Oct. 21, Navarro pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. A judge earlier that month ruled he was competent to stand trial.

Navarro has been under court-ordered psychiatric care since late January 2021, when Reserve Judge Timothy Van Akkeren ordered him moved to the state's Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison.

Court files also show he has undergone several competency examinations. He was ordered by Fond du Lac County Circuit Judge Andrew Christenson in October to undergo "involuntary administration of medications for treatment."

The trial is slated to begin with jury selection on Monday morning. The court has set aside eight days for the proceeding.

Contact Doug Schneider at (920) 431-8333, or DSchneid@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PGDougSchneider.

This article originally appeared on Fond du Lac Reporter: Trial begins today for Fond du Lac man accused of hate crime in crash