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Moorhead man sentenced to 44 years for charges of murder and arson

Justin Critt

MOORHEAD – A Moorhead man was sentenced in Clay County District Court to 40 years in prison Monday, June 9, for the murder of 49-year-old Melissa Willcoxon in the summer of 2016.

Justin Critt received the maximum sentence of 40 years for the second-degree murder of Willcoxon. He also received a consecutive sentence of four years for first-degree arson for burning the home Willcoxon was staying in at the time of her death. Critt will be required to spend at least two-thirds of his sentence behind bars, but with good behavior he will be eligible for supervised release for the remainder.

A jury of six men and six women took just over four hours to convict Critt on May 25, after a two-week trial filled with testimony from friends, witnesses and law enforcement officials.

“We’re satisfied completely with the sentence,” said Brian Melton, Clay County attorney and prosecutor in the case.

Bruce Ringstrom Jr., Critt’s attorney, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Critt appeals the sentence. If he does, Ringstrom Jr. would handle the appeal as well.

According to court documents, firefighters were sent to a fire at 1019 11th Ave. S. on June 28, 2016, and found Willcoxon’s body and a hammer nearby. Autopsy results showed a head injury consistent with a hammer strike, court documents show.

Critt told authorities he did not set the fire or kill Willcoxon, but an acquaintance of Critt told detectives he said he had killed someone, court documents show. A lab test showed Willcoxon’s blood on Critt’s clothing.