(SD)-Guilty Pleas With Conflicting Stories Holding Up Sentencing In Res Murder
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - A federal judge in Rapid City is holding off sentencing two Pine Ridge Reservation residents who have pleaded guilty to last year's strangling death of a 24-year old woman on the reservation until he determines which of them actually committed the murder.
24-year old Elizabeth LeBeau and 31-year old Fred Quiver accuse each other of strangling Emily Bluebird with an electronics cord on Jan 2nd at a Pine Ridge home. Bluebird was listed as missing until her remains were found on the reservation nearly 3 weeks later on the 21st.
LeBeau and Quiver, who were living together at the time, were originally charged with 1st-degree murder, but both accepted plea bargains in March. LeBeau pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder and Quiver to accessory to 2nd-degree murder, but each said the other strangled Bluebird.
Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Gregg Peterman told the Rapid City Journal the government accepts both accounts because investigators and prosecutors believe LeBeau and Quiver were highly intoxicated at the time of the killing and both think they're telling the truth.
Federal District Judge Jeffrey Viken says he's never seen such a situation in his 40 years as an attorney and judge. He's already delayed sentencing for both defendants, originally set for last month, because the fact the government accepts both stories complicates sentencing since Quiver pleaded to a lesser charge than LaBeau.
He faces a maximum of 15 years while she could get life in prison. Her attorney said at her last hearing that he would push for a maximum of 15 years for LeBeau because the government agreed with her claim that Quiver committed the murder.
Judge Viken has option; he could invalidate both plea agreements and schedule the defendants for trial, he could push for either LeBeau or Quiver to withdraw their plea, or he could just make his own decision on the sentences with the maximums and minimums required by the law.
Viken said at the last hearing that the concepts at the heart of federal criminal prosecution are the search for truth and the quest for justice for crime victims, with jury trials the place to settle facts in dispute. That suggests he's at least open to rejecting the plea bargains, but he's given no indication when he will issue his decision on his options.
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