You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
scottm / Courtesy Ashley Schlichenmayer-Okroi  

Amanda Ludemann, Ashley Schlichenmayer-Okroi, Laney Heller and Teresa Gilk stand next to a goal post after a practice on Thursday night. There will be a female flag football game at Lilly Park in Fort Pierre on Sunday.

spotlight watchdog alert centerpiece featured special report urgent
Snodgrass sentenced to 100 years for raping girl from age 5 to 9 in Pierre

In a Pierre courtroom on Friday, retired State Judge Mark Barnett sentenced Brandon Snodgrass to 100 years in prison for raping the daughter of his then-girlfriend from the time she was 5 until she was 9.

Snodgrass, 36, sat in orange jail stripes and made no statement to the court, but several times shook his head in apparent dispute with comments from the judge and prosecutor.

“This is the biggest sentence I’ve ever given,” Barnett told Snodgrass and the hushed Hughes County courtroom packed with relatives of Snodgrass and of his victim, including her mother, as well as about a dozen law enforcement officers. Barnett retired in March but remained on the case through sentencing.

“Justice has been served,” Roxanne Hammond, Hughes County state’s attorney, told the Capital Journal after Barnett passed sentence and Snodgrass had been led out of the courtroom.

Snodgrass’s attorney, Dave Siebrasse, declined to comment.

Before Barnett sentenced Snodgrass, Hammond made an impassioned argument for Snodgrass to be put in prison for the rest of his life.

“He calls himself a contributing member of society, but he’s only been able to maintain employment for a few months to a year at a time. He has been arrested approximately 21 times since turning 18. He is the statutory definition of a habitual offender.”

Snodgrass took no responsibility for his crimes, Hammond said.

“It’s as though Brandon is writing a fiction book in his head, where he’s the main protagonist and the rest of us are evil henchmen preventing him from success. Except this work of fiction was a little girl’s living hell for four years.”

A jury in Pierre found Snodgrass guilty on May 31 of 12 counts of rape and sexual assault of the girl while he was living with her and her mother. Hammond told the Capital Journal the girl’s courage during the case, including testifying against Snodgrass for hours, inspired her. The two bonded through hours of preparing the case, she said.

Hammond mentioned another personal connection to the case in her argument Friday.

“Brandon mentions that he was abused growing up. Coming from a household of addiction and abuse myself, my sympathy for Brandon in this area is sincere.”

But Snodgrass didn’t learn from his experience of abuse except to pass on the abuse to a child victim, Hammond said.

“For four years Brandon violated, injured, defiled, and humiliated a child. While she was learning how to read and write her name at school during the day, Brandon was raping her when he’d pick her up from school. He was having sex with a child. He did things to her that suck the breath out of the adults who have had to hear her recount that reality for these four years.”

In a short argument before sentencing, Siebrasse told Barnett that “this is the first offense of this type my client has been convicted of . . . so we are asking that (his sentence would be something) so he’s not going to essentially die in prison.”

“He has the support of his family, average to above-average intelligence,” and can do well in treatment and rehabilitation,Siebrasse said.

Snodgrass is hoping to use his skills in auto repair “to open up a shop with his father” at some point, Siebrasse said. “He wants to be a contributing member of society . . . at some date.”

In a presentence investigation done after the trial in May, Snodgrass was asked by court services officials what sentence he thought would be appropriate. According to statements Friday in court, Snodgrass suggested from one year to 10 years.

Hammond said that could mean his victim “wouldn’t even be 18,” before Snodgrass got out of prison.

Hammond said the psychologist hired by the prosecution gave his opinion that “Brandon’s pedophilic interests will likely continue at a high level, indicating that he will have the unfortunate motivation, likely, sexually, emotionally, and socially which will place him at a continued risk to act out inappropriately with a child in a sexual way moving forward.”

She said that while in jail awaiting trial, “Brandon was arrested for solicitation to tamper with a witness, in that he is accused of attempting to solicit harm upon the victim and her mother by means of a fellow inmate. If released, he could very well follow through on those threats.”

Snodgrass’s crimes change the lives of a dozen people who love and care for his victim, Hammond said.

“And he did it well. For years he groomed her, he bullied her, and he kept her quiet both through her love for him and her fear of him. He did it so well (the prosecution) does not believe she was his first victim and she certainly would have been his last, but for the courage of a little girl with the fortitude to tell his secrets.”

Snodgrass’s attorney, Siebrasse, objected to Hammond’s mention of alleged witness tampering, saying there was no evidence given in court about it and the inmate source of the accusations should not be believed.

Judge Barnett told Siebrasse he would not take that alleged incident into account in his sentencing.

Hammond argued that Snodgrass would hurt other children if he had the chance.

“While causing irreparable damage to his victim, he seems to view this case as just a blip on his radar, suggesting he will get out in 1 to 10 years and open (an auto repair) shop with his father. If his case registers so low on his conscience, why wouldn’t he reoffend? He clearly does not grasp nor seem to care about the deep and profound negative impact he has had on his victims’ lives. Brandon groomed and manipulated an intelligent and capable little girl into keeping a horrible secret for four years. As the state mentioned, we do not believe (she) is Brandon’s first victim. But today this court has the ability to ensure she will be his last. And it is for this reason, and the many I’ve listed here today, that that state will be recommending a sentence of life in prison for Brandon Snodgrass.”

Judge Barnett told Snodgrass he was going to give him a “substantial” sentence and said the state Supreme Court directed that a judge should explain such a sentence to a defendant.

He gave an extended review of his reasons that lasted about 45 minutes and seemed to keep the 60 people throughout the courtroom rapt. Hardly a sound was made.

Occasionally a family member patted the shoulder of Snodgrass’s father.

The victim’s mother sat in a front row in the gallery; across the courtroom sat a grandmother of the girl, who was not in the courtroom.

Snodgrass’s parents and siblings and several friends sat together.

Barnett told Snodgrass: “In your (presentence investigation) you complained about how your mother abused you. I saw that as an indication that you tend to see yourself in terms of a victim.”

Barnett said he knows Snodgrass’ father and has heard good things about him from the business where he has worked.

“He’s worked on a couple of my cars. They speak well of him down there. . . So you don’t have that kind of excuse. . . I find no deficit in intelligence . . . No head trauma and you can’t say it was drugs or alcohol. It’s simply how you think . . . And we have learned from a number of studies of sex offenders that pedophiles are the toughest to cure. They have a very high percentage that re-offend . . . So I think your chances of rehabilitation are basically none. I think you will be a risk for the rest of your life.”

Barnett said the psycho-sexual assessment of Snodgrass — done by Dr. Scott Pribyl for the prosecution — informed his sentence.

“I have read a fistful of Dr. Pribyl’s assessments and I have never seen him so adamant that (a defendant) was and always will be a danger to children,” Barnett told Snodgrass.

Barnett told him that beyond the little girl he raped over four years, he has many other victims.

“You put your own family in a terrible spot. Who wants to say, ‘My brother is a child rapist?’”

Mostly he put his child victim in a terrible place, Barnett said, citing information coming from the girl about how often the sexual assaults happened, although only 12 incidents were charged.

“Mr. Siebrasse said this is the first offense of this type. No, this is the first 50 or 100 offenses of this type. (She) sat there and testified, ‘Every day I would come home from school and hope he wouldn’t (rape me) and then he would.’”

Police officers said “you were neither surprised nor upset when they arrested you for this crime,” Barnett said.

Barnett said the evidence showed Snodgrass had a “complete lack of self-awareness. . . you simply do not track with how wrong this behavior is.”

A police investigator “testified that when he came to ask you about (the girl’s accusations in 2017) you said ‘(the girl) and I shower together regularly’ . . . Maybe I’m old-school. But I think most people would be shocked — and the jury was shocked — that a grown man, 32, 33 years old, is showering with a 5-year-old stepdaughter. Who isn’t even your stepdaughter because you weren’t married. She was the daughter of your girlfriend. And (the officer) said, ‘He doesn’t realize how wrong that is.’”

“But I think you were sexualizing her, getting her accustomed to seeing you naked, to provoke her curiosity and maybe get her to touch you.”

(At this point, Snodgrass shook his head, apparently disputing Barnett’s account.)

“It is clear to me that you are sexually obsessed, not only with (the girl) but with sex,” Barnett said.

He mentioned the ottoman in their apartment that served as a storage container with a lid, according to testimony from the girl and her mother.

“And there are countless items in there, variously referred to as sex toys.”

Which they may be, Barnett said, “when you use them on a consenting adult female. But they are sex weapons when they are used by you on 5- or 6-year-old kids.”

“(She) said you hit her when she would refuse you. I believe that. She was a very convincing girl.”

(Here Snodgrass again shakes his head slightly, as if disputing Barnett.)

Barnett transfixed the courtroom in uncomfortable silence as he read a litany of the titles of internet searches found on Snodgrass’s phone or other computer devices, including crude terms describing sexual assaults of all sorts by men on little girls.

“The word ‘stepdaughter’ runs through all your internet searches,” Barnett told him. “And that’s just a sample.”

The evidence, including the “sex toys,” and internet searches “gives me an idea how much your brain has locked on to sex,” Barnett said. “You are possessed by it.”

While he was charged with a dozen instances of sexually assaulting the girl, there are indications, including from interviews with the girl, that Snodgrass assaulted her on a nearly daily basis, so the number could be “50 to 200,” Barnett said.

The only time he didn’t do it was during a stint in state prison for grand theft, Barnett told him.

Judge Barnett gave a rather complicated sentence covering the dozen charges Snodgrass was convicted of that includes two mandatory minimum terms and a string of seven concurrent 10-year terms.

But it adds up to 100 years.

Barnett gave Snodgrass credit for the 333 days he’s spent in the Hughes County Jail since his arrest.

Under the state’s guidelines, based on his criminal record, Snodgrass will be required to serve about 75 percent of the sentence, Hammond estimated.

Barnett told Snodgrass he took no pleasure in handing down such a long sentence which he said was a “tragedy,” for Snodgrass and for his family.

“My hope is that you will learn to live a new life and make the best of it you can,” Barnett said. “But I want that child to go through the rest of her life knowing you will never harm or hurt anyone ever again, including her.”

As he stood and turned to leave the courtroom, Snodgrass glanced to where his family and friends were sitting, touched a handcuffed hand to his mouth and blew them a kiss.

Before he imposed the sentence, Barnett warned those in the gallery that any outburst over the sentence, pro or con, could mean jail time.

After a jury convicted him after about 2.5 hours of deliberation on May 31, a sister of Snodgrass sobbed loudly and seemingly out of control in the courthouse hallway for several minutes.

On Friday, the courtroom remained relatively quiet except for the same sister sobbing rather quietly after the sentence.

Hughes County Sheriff Darin Johnson told the gallery of about 43 seated in the wooden pews to remain in their seats for several minutes while Snodgrass was escorted out of the courtroom and courthouse back to the jail and law officers left.

About a dozen law enforcement officers from several agencies, including about three deputy U.S. marshals and agents from the state Division of Criminal Investigation, Pierre police, including Chief Jason Jones, sheriff’s deputies and jail officers, stood or sat throughout the courtroom for the hour-long hearing.

Sheriff Johnson said he just wanted to make sure there was plenty of security if needed.

topical featured
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally ends with a smaller crowd than last year

STURGIS – Traffic counts from the South Dakota Department of Transportation for vehicles entering Sturgis for the 79th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally Aug. 2-11 were as follows:

Friday, Aug. 2: 52,099 entering – up 5.4 percent from Friday last year

Saturday, Aug. 3: 59,572 entering – down -0.9 percent from Saturday last year

Sunday, Aug. 4: 55,551 entering – up 6.5 percent from Sunday last year

Monday, Aug. 5: 61,126 entering – up 2.9 percent from Monday last year

Tuesday, Aug. 6: 59,361 entering – down -1.5 percent from Tuesday last year

Wednesday, Aug. 7: 56,204 entering – down -7.3 percent from Wednesday last year

Thursday, Aug. 8: 54,540 entering – down -8.5 percent from Thursday last year

The seven day total for the rally was 395,453, down -0.7 percent from 2018’s 398,318 rally tally. However, a final traffic count update will be released on Tuesday, August 13.

Thursday through Saturday also saw a number of crashes:

On Thursday, August 8:

At 9:22 a.m., Thursday, Interstate 90, mile marker 73, five miles west of New Underwood: A motorcycle driver lost control as the motorcycle went into the median and flipped several times. The male driver, 34, suffered serious non-life threatening injuries. He was not wearing a helmet.

At 4:41 p.m., Thursday, U.S. Highway 85, mile marker eight, 17 miles southwest of Lead: A motorcycle was northbound when the male driver, 36, lost control while going around a curve. The motorcycle entered the ditch and overturned into a small ravine. The driver sustained minor injuries. He was not wearing a helmet.

At 5:33 p.m., Thursday, U.S. Highway 16A, mile marker 48, seven miles south of Keystone: A motorcycle was westbound when the driver lost control on a curve. The motorcycle went off the road and struck a fence. Both the driver and passenger were thrown from the motorcycle. The male driver, 59, suffered minor injuries. The female passenger, 56, sustained serious non-life threatening injuries. Neither was wearing a helmet.

At 1:17 a.m. Friday, Interstate 90, exit 37, five miles east of Sturgis: A motorcycle was eastbound on I-90 and had taken the Exit 37 off ramp. The motorcycle went into the ditch. The male driver, 52, suffered serious non-life threatening injuries. He was not wearing a helmet.

On Friday, August 9:

At 7:35 a.m., Friday, Interstate 90, mile marker 144, six miles west of Kadoka: A 2015 Ford F2S pickup, pulling a trailer with a motorcycle on it, was eastbound in the passing lane lon I-90. The male driver observed a semi truck drifting into his lane and entered the median to avoid a crash. The driver, 70, was not injured. The female passenger, 58, sustained minor injuries. Both were wearing seatbelts.

A 8:30 a.m., Friday, Vanocker Canyon Road, mile marker 8, eight miles south of Sturgis: The driver of a southbound motorcycle failed to negotiate a turn and crossed the center line, crashing into a northbound 2001 Ford F250 pickup. The male motorcycle driver, 36, received serious non-life threatening injuries. He was not wearing a helmet. The pickup driver, 76, was not injured. He was wearing a seatbelt.

At 10:40 a.m. Friday, Norris Peak Road near Bogus Jim Road, 12 miles west of Rapid City: A motorcycle was northbound on Norris Peak Road when the driver failed to negotiate a curve. The vehicle entered the east ditch, but the driver drove the motorcycle out of the ditch, back onto Norris Peak Road, went across the center line and hit a southbound motorcycle head-on. The male driver of the first motorcycle, 63 was airlifted to Rapid City. The two occupants of the second motorcycle were taken by ambulance to Rapid City Regional. The driver was a 44-year-old male. The passenger was a 34-year-old female. All three suffered serious non-life threatening injuries. None were wearing helmets.

At 5:18 p.m., Friday, Norris Peak Road near Nemo, three miles north of Johnson Siding: A motorcycle was northbound on Norris Peak Road when the male driver lost control. The driver, 67, suffered serious non-life threatening injuries. He was not wearing a helmet.

At 7:40 p.m., Friday, Interstate 90, mile marker 69, two mile east of Box Elder: A motorcycle entered the median and both occupants were thrown from the motorcycle. The male driver, 35, suffered minor injuries. The female passenger, 62, sustained serious non-life threatening injuries. Both were wearing helmets.

On Saturday, August 10:

At 12:15 p.m., Saturday, South Dakota Highway 87, mile marker 54, 10 miles east of Custer: A motorcycle was southbound when the driver swerved to avoid a collision with a motorcycle ahead of him which had made a sudden stop. The first motorcycle went into the ditch. The male driver, 49, suffered minor injuries. He was wearing a helmet.

At 1:05 p.m., Saturday, South Dakota Highway 248, mile marker 168, five miles east of Kadoka: A motorcycle was eastbound when the driver lost control in a construction zone. Both occupants were thrown from the motorcycle. The male driver, 27, suffered serious non-life threatening injuries. The female passenger, 26, sustained minor injuries. Neither was wearing a helmet.

At 4 p.m., Saturday, U.S. Highway 16A, mile marker 27, six mile east of Custer: A HarleyDavidson motorcycle was westbound when it crossed into the eastbound lane. The motorcycle collided with an eastbound Ducati motorcycle and an eastbound Yamaha motorcycle then rear-ended the Ducati. The two Harley Davidson passengers – the male driver, 59, and the female passenger, 58, both suffered minor injuries. The 51-year-old male driver of the Ducati motorcycle sustained life-threatening injuries. The driver of the Yamaha motorcycle, a 28-year-old male, had minor injuries. All four people involved were wearing helmets.

On Sunday, August 11:

At 3:43 a.m. Sunday, near the intersection of North Elk Vale Road and Elk Creek Road, nine miles north of Rapid City: A male motorcycle driver had lost control on the uneven road surface. The driver, 64, was not injured. The female passenger, 46, sustained minor injuries. Neither was wearing a helmet.

Final statistics will be compiled by the Highway Patrol on Tuesday.

Tales on the River looks at 1874 Custer Expedition's route

Author Paul Horsted, of Custer, brought a fascinating then-and-now comparison of historical and modern photographs of parts of the Black Hills, to the Fort Pierre Moose Club’s “Tales on the River,” on Thursday, August 8. The presentation was sponsored by the Short Grass Arts Council and the South Dakota Humanities Council, and based on Horsted’s book, “Black Hills Yesterday and Today.”

What Horsted showed the audience gathered at the Moose Club was a series of photos comparing Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s 1874 Black Hills Expedition (illegal at the time because this was still part of the Great Sioux Reservation) photos with modern photos taken at the exact same locations.

The resulting then-and-now images reveal an insight into the history, development and ecology of the region. Horsted put the photos side-by-side, emulating the 1874 method of a stereoscope, a way to add three-dimensional viewing to the flat images of the time.

“Do you remember the kids’ toy Viewmaster? Kind of like that,” Horsted explained.

Custer’s expedition incorporated a 1,000-plus person “small town on wheels,” that began July 2, from Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory, near Bismarck, North Dakota.

The expedition spent two months scouting for the possibility of gold mining, fort locations and a route into the southwest. The expedition, including the 7th Cavalry, arrived in the Black Hills on July 22, and remained there for about three weeks, Horsted said, including a two-day stop on land in the present-day town of Custer, and a five-day stop (the longest) about three miles east of Custer on French Creek.

“This 1874 expedition went by a half mile from a lot of today’s people’s houses,” said Horsted.

Guided by Indian scouts (Arikara, Ree and Sioux), the group included five newspaper reporters who did “almost an hour-by-hour reporting.” A team of mapmakers, even men who made up a 16-piece brass band, and a photographer were also part of the expedition.

Since 1874, three diaries have been found and added to the historical accounting Horsted said. “We know there are more old diaries out there, we just don’t know where,” said Horsted.

The expedition was also documented photographically by William H. Illingworth, a British photographer who was selected by the Captain William Ludlow, the expedition’s engineer and lead mapmaker. Ludlow financed Illingworth’s photography and paid him $30 per month as a teamster to provide photographic plates for the U.S. Army.

Illingworth produced about 70 glass plates of landscapes and portraits of expedition members. After the expedition, Illingworth did not give Ludlow the six sets of plates as agreed, only one partial set.

Later, Ludlow discovered that a photographic firm was offering for sale complete sets of Illingworth’s images of the expedition. Ludlow escaped embezzlement charges on a legal technicality, and the negatives stayed in Illingworth’s possession until his death.

During his life, Illingworth produced approximately 1,600 negatives of the West and Midwest.

Many of these photos still exist in collections due to Illingworth’s son, who found the negatives in an attic, and later sold his father’s collection to a Mr. Bromley, who in 1919 sold the Black Hills images for $60 to the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Because of Illingworth’s work, historians know the exact boundaries and layouts of some of the Black Hills Expedition’s camps, the condition of the Black Hills forests and streams, and the appearance of many of the soldiers and civilians who were on the expedition.

The free weekly ‘Tales on the River’ programs start at 7 p.m. and last about an hour. A light supper is available, starting at 6:15 p.m.

For more information, call Barb Wood at 567-3597.

Zonta club serves local women

Zonta International is a leading global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy.There are clubs in over 67 countries.

“There are 1,200 Zonta clubs around the world, with more than 29,000 members,” said local Zontian Jane Page. ”The Pierre/Fort Pierre chapter was chartered in 1955, thus it has been a club for 64 years. We have 21 very active members in the local club.”

“We raise money through our two craft shows in November and April,” said Page. “From those funds we provide over $6,000 each year in scholarships to women. We serve the banquet, help with the backpack program through the food pantry, and donate up to $5,000 annually to local charitable organizations that support our mission. Our club’s mission is to advance the economic status of women and to improve the health and welfare of women.”

“We are also in the planning stage of partnering with the Governor’s office, as well as other South Dakota Zonta clubs, to advocate and provide resources for women who are victims of human trafficking,” said Page. “Another activity for Zonta International’s centennial is the collection of supplies for Missouri Shores during the month of October. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. We will have boxes located throughout Pierre and Fort Pierre during that time, and will be asking the public to help with this project.”

“There are 1,200 Zonta clubs around the world, with more than 29,000 members,” said local Zontian Jane Page. ”The Pierre/Fort Pierre chapter was chartered in 1955, thus it has been a club for 64 years. We have 21 very active members in the local club.”

Zonta International celebrates its 100 anniversary this November.

As part of that celebration the Pierre/Fort Pierre Zonta Club donated several books on courageous women to the Rawlins library. For the July 29 story time, more than 20 kids heard Zontian Laurie Gustafson read three books, “Try a Little Kindness,” “Amelia Earhart,” and “Cece Loves Science.” With her was Denise Luckhurst.

Nest predator bounty program closes August 12

On Monday, August 12, the Nest Predator Bounty Program will close after receiving 50,000 nest predator tails from nearly 3,000 participants.

With Governor Noem being committed to continuing South Dakota’s outdoor heritage, she created the Second Century Initiative early in 2019. The Nest Predator Bounty Program launched on April 1, 2019, as part of this initiative to help pheasants and ducks increase nesting success. Since then, the program has focused on introducing people to trapping as well as reducing localized populations of nest predators.

“I want to sincerely thank Governor Noem for taking the initiative to develop a program that encouraged individuals and families to get outside while allowing the department to implement it,” said Game, Fish and Parks’ Secretary, Kelly Hepler. “The success of this program is directly tied to the stories we have received from the families who were inspired to start trapping for the first time. One Huron dad told us that this was one of the first times he and his son were able to connect through an activity other than video games. And a grandma told us that this is a way she can spend time outside with her grandkids.”

The bulk of submissions came from raccoon tails at 37,720 followed by the submission of 5,529 skunk tails. The top counties that participated in the program have included: Minnehaha, Beadle, Yankton, Grant, Brookings, Turner, Kingsbury, Clark, Roberts and Lake counties.

“I greatly appreciate the enthusiasm that has come with the program to sustain our state’s outdoor trapping heritage,” said Hepler. “Participants have not only been successful at removing large numbers of nest predators which will help nesting birds in their local areas, but more importantly, they have had fun and experienced our outdoor resources in a way they might not have ever known.”

Program participants can submit their tails through August 12 at the following offices (open Monday – Friday, 8am-5pm):

Ft. Pierre: 605.223.7680, 20641 SD Hwy 1806

Aberdeen: 605.626.2391, 5850 E. Hwy 12

Chamberlain: 605.734.4530, 1550 E. King Ave.

Huron: 605.353.7145, 895 3rd Street SW

Mobridge: 605.845.7814, 909 Lake Front Drive

Rapid City: 605.394.2391, 4130 Adventure Trail

Sioux Falls: 605.362.2700, 4500 S. Oxbow Ave.

Watertown: 605.882.5200, 400 West Kemp