Russell Bertram, Sioux Falls, formerly of Colome, was found guilty of first degree murder in the death of his pregnant fiancée in 2009. On Monday a Gregory County jury returned the guilty verdict following a two-week trial in Burke.
Prosecutors accused Bertram in the killing of 26 year old Leonila Stickney in 2009 to collect more than $900,000 in insurance money. They also said jealously was a factor because Bertram had undergone a vasectomy and knew the unborn child couldn’t be his.
Bertram said he was putting his shotgun into his truck after a hunting trip in Gregory County when the weapon fired accidentally, striking Stickney in the abdomen.
Bertram’s defense team argued the case had nothing to do with jealousy and that the insurance policy was Stickney’s idea to provide for her family in the Phillipines if anything happened to her.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley and Gregory County State’s Attorney Amy Bartling praised the verdict.“The jury returned a verdict in a case that could have likely gone unsolved but for the hard work of investigators and prosecutors,” said Jackley. “Russell Bertram took the life of his fiancé, while claiming the death was the result of an accidental shooting with the hopes of collecting over $900,000 worth of insurance money. Bertram’s callous disregard for Leonila and his failure to show any sorrow or remorse are evident and unfortunate,” said the attorney general.
Bertram faces a minimum penalty of life in prison as well as a $50,000 fine. Sentencing is expected to take place within the first couple weeks of November. The hearing will be held in Winner because the Gregory County Courthouse will be occupied with another murder trial in which a man is accused of shaking and killing his 3 month old son.
Bertram’s trial was the last for Circuit Judge Kathleen Trandahl of Winner who is retiring Oct. 7. She praised the attorneys in the case for their professionalism.
Winners Named in Punt Pass and Kick
The Punt,Pass and Kick contest was held Friday at Warrior Field following the homecoming parade.
The 6-7 year old girl winner was Cameron Olson.
Results of the 6-7 year old boys include: 1. Jalen Tideman, 2. Max Fiesterman, 3. Weston Foster
Results of the 8-9 year old girls include: 1. Olivia Swedlund, 2. Lilly Barfuss
8-9 year old boys—1. Aiden Semrad-Schroeder, 2. Derek Fenenga, 3. Carter Craven
10-11 year old girls—1. Ava Craven, 2. Cici Watson, 3. Karlee Brozik
10-11 boys—1. Aiden Barfuss, 3. Ryder Halligan, 3. Kellen Brozik
12-13 girls—1. Bella Swedlund
12-13 boys—1. Ethan Bartels, 2. Coy Brickmana, 3. Justin Hausmann
The first place winners will advance to the sectional competition in Pierre on Oct. 9.
Testimony in Civil Trial Begins
By Dan Bechtold
Land deeds and written wills are all evidence in civil jury trial which started in Winner Sept. 21. Jury selection started on Sept. 21 with testimony beginning on Thursday. Circuit Judge John Brown of Pierre is presided at the trial.
The case involves the estate of Wayne Kenneth Ducheneaux vs. Douglas Ducheneaux. Wayne Ducheneaux died on Nov. 18, 2011.
Gary Fenenga, a CPA in Winner, testified that was appointed a conservator for the estate. As a conservator his job was to protect the assets of Wayne Ducheneaux. Several deeds for transfer of land were shown to Fenenga and the CPA was asked questions about them.
Jack Gunvordahl testified he is the personal representative for the estate.
Tripp County Register of Deeds Louise Flisram testified deeds for transfer of land were presented to her office. Initially, she rejected one of the them because it was not it the proper form. After changes were made the deed was filed.
Dr. Teresa Marts, a family practice doctor in Winner testified that Wayne Ducheneaux was a patient. She had concerns because he was exhibiting signs of dementia.
The civil trial is continuing this week in the courtroom in Winner.
Technical Education Meeting Planned
A public meeting on technical education will be held in Winner on Sunday, Oct. 2. The meeting will be held at the Tripp County 4-H Center from 2-4 p.m.
The purpose is to discuss plans and develop a regional hands-on technical education program says Chuck Noble who will chair the meeting.
Some of the items on the agenda will include forming a board of directors, develop programs, classes and certifications. A facilities plan will be developed along with developing financing.