BISMARCK-The State Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a ruling forbidding convicted murderer Richie Wilder Jr. of Minot from having contact with two of his children until they turn 18.
In the same ruling, the justices turned down Wilder's motion for a new trial. They ruled that a Ward County prosecutor improperly made reference to Wilder's silence after his arrest during closing arguments, but it was a harmless error and there was enough evidence otherwise to convict Wilder.
Wilder is serving life without parole for the brutal stabbing death of his pregnant ex-wife, Angila Wilder, in November 2015 in Minot. His current wife, Cynthia Wilder, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 30 for helping him plan the murder and helping him cover it up afterwards. She also faces a sentence of life without parole. The two children were staying with Richie and Cynthia Wilder on the night their mother was murdered.
At the sentencing hearing for Richie Wilder Jr. in May 2017, North Central District Court Judge Gary Lee had ordered Wilder to have no contact ever again with the two children he had with Angila Wilder, who were ages 12 and 6 at the time of the sentencing. Wilder had wanted to exchange phone calls and letters with the children from prison. The defense appealed and Lee later modified his order to allow the children to decide for themselves whether to have contact with Wilder once each has reached adulthood. Lee said he had this right under the provisions of the state's Marsy's Law, which protects the right of crime victims.
In his order, Lee had written, "If the Court has erred by trying to shield these children from further contact with the cold-blooded killer of their mother, so be it. It is a mistake the Court will make every time in order to protect children."
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Lee's decision was an overreach because no one had asked for a no contact order on behalf of the children or invoked their rights under Marsy's Law.
The Supreme Court also ruled that Lee did not have the legal authority to order no contact with the children as part of Wilder's sentence. However, they noted in their decision that "there are other laws that can be applied to accomplish the same result as the district court was trying to accomplish."
The Wilder children were living with their maternal grandmother out of state as of last year.