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A car accident early Friday morning left Zadie Morgan with numerous broken bones. In court Tuesday, the prosecuting attorney said the driver and his father tried to downplay her injuries cover up the accident. (Submitted photo)

Duluth accident victim stoic in recovery, dad says

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DULUTH

A distraught Shaun Morgan provided two photographs of his daughter, Zadie, to a reporter outside a St. Louis County courtroom this week.

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"This is what she looked like before,'' he said before handing over the first photograph. He then crumpled an identical second photograph in his hands and said, "This is what she looks like now."

But Morgan was more upbeat on Wednesday because he knows his 18-year-old daughter, Zadie, still has her faith and spirit.

"Her overall compassion and loving and understanding -- and just the will to live -- gives me the strength that I need to continue,'' he said.

Zadie Morgan was in serious condition in St. Mary's Medical Center on Wednesday. Her father said she has undergone several surgeries to repair the broken bones in her face. She has a tracheotomy to help her breathe. She can't talk. Her mouth is banded shut. Her eyes are swollen shut.

Her injuries stem from an early Friday car accident in which 17-year-old Christopher D. Wilczek is accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and causing an accident that inflicted great bodily harm. He's also accused of two counts of leaving the scene of an accident and one count of failing to stop and report an accident. All four crimes are felonies.

Morgan said his daughter has been concerned by rumors that someone might try to retaliate against Wilczek.

"My daughter made it very clear that she doesn't want anyone else hurt emotionally, physically or in any other nature,'' he said. "That was her wishes. She's very adamant about that. She holds her hand up, shakes her finger in a "no'' pattern and writes very adamantly on her board.''

Morgan, a pipefitter, steamfitter and welder with Plumbers and Steam Fitters Local No. 11 in Duluth, said Christopher Wilczek is a friend of his daughter at Hermantown High School, but they are not boyfriend-girlfriend.

St. Louis County Attorney Melanie Ford said Wednesday that her office intends to file a motion to have Wilczek, who turns 18 today, certified to stand trial as an adult.

The criminal complaint says that instead of calling 911 for medical help and police assistance after the accident, Wilczek telephoned his father. Daniel J. Wilczek, 51, drove to the accident scene but also didn't seek medical attention for Morgan. Instead, he gave Morgan a ride to her parents' house and reported her injuries as not being serious.

Daniel Wilczek is charged with two felony counts of aiding an offender by harboring, concealing or aiding another known to have committed a felony.

According to the criminal complaint against Daniel Wilczek, Zadie Morgan recalls going to the Wilczek residence between the time of the accident and being brought to her own home.

However, Duluth defense attorney Richard Holmstrom, who represents Daniel Wilczek, said his client didn't take the victim to his home. Holmstrom said that when Daniel Wilczek drove his son and the young woman from the scene he discovered he was closer to the victim's home than the hospital and decided to get her parents involved at that point.

But there is no apparent explanation for why, according to the criminal complaint against Daniel Wilczek, that he told a St. Louis County sheriff's deputy and Zadie Morgan's parents that the injuries the young woman received were minor.

Morgan said the nurses and doctors at St. Mary's Medical Center have done everything that can be done for his daughter. "They've been just outstanding with their care, support and skill; it's just been amazing,'' he said.

He said his daughter has worked as a fashion model all her life and has considered it for a future career. She has worked recently at Wendy's restaurant on Miller Trunk Highway and will be a senior at Hermantown High School next fall.

"She just wants to thank everyone for their cares and thoughts and concerns,'' he said. "She's very strong. Her faith in God has not faltered one time. She just wanted to relay the message that she appreciates everyone's love and concern and support. ... She's in serious condition, but she's hanging in there. She's going to be who she is and that's all that matters. ... Her heart remains the same."

The Duluth News Tribune and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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Pioneer staff reports
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