From Mitchell Daily Republic
BURKE — A Hamill man accused of killing his former girlfriend will await a jury trial after pleading not guilty on June 13 to murder.
During a court hearing in Burke, Chance Harruff denied killing 38-year-old Kristi Olson. Nearly two weeks ago, law enforcement officers allegedly found Olson unresponsive in her Dallas home with markings and possible bruising on her neck.
Clad in an orange jumpsuit and shackles, Harruff did not speak to the judge or court during the proceedings, aside from answering direct “yes” or “no” questions from Judge Bobbi Rank and entering his plea of “not guilty” to charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. Initially, Harruff was charged with second-degree murder. If convicted of first-degree murder, Harruff could face the death penalty.
The charges stem from an incident in the early morning hours of June 1, at which time an argument escalated and Harruff, 46, struck Olson with a ” ‘mule’ strength punch” to her chest, knocking her to the floor, according to court documents. Harruff then allegedly left the scene, not knowing if Olson needed medical assistance. He was later located by police.
According to court documents, family members and law enforcement officers told South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation officers the couple had a volatile and violent relationship that led to several previous incidents of domestic violence, but Olson always refused to notify authorities of the incidents. The couple had lived together, but Harruff recently moved out of Olson’s residence.
A scheduling hearing was set for August, at which time a jury trial will be scheduled. During the hearing, the prosecution will indicate whether it will seek the death penalty in the case. During last Tuesday’s proceedings, Defense Attorney Clint Sargent indicated the earliest he would be available for a trial would be in early 2018.
The difference between the first- and second-degree murder charges, according to South Dakota Codified Law, is that second-degree murder occurs “without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular person, including any unborn child.” Unlike first-degree murder, second-degree murder is a Class B felony and does not carry the death penalty.