STURGIS, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota teenager plans to plead guilty to manslaughter in the death of a 16-year-old Wyoming girl whose body was found in his basement last fall, attorneys said.
The 17-year-old defendant originally was charged as an adult with alternative counts of first- and second-degree murder in the killing of Shayna Ritthaler of Upton, Wyoming. Meade County State’s Attorney Michele Bordewyk told the Rapid City Journal the boy is expected to plead guilty to manslaughter on Thursday. He originally pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.
Bordewyk and the teen’s defense attorney, Steven Titus, have agreed to ask the judge for a 55-year sentence, but the judge does not have to agree to their recommendation.
Titus called it a “sad situation for everyone involved.”
Titus said he hopes the judge agrees to the sentence since it gives the teen “a light at the end of the tunnel” by making him eligible for parole in his early 40s.
Titus had planned on arguing that his client should be transferred to juvenile court, but that hearing was canceled given the plea deal. The Associated Press isn’t naming the defendant because his case might end up back in juvenile court.
Titus said the plea deal also means he’s dropping the insanity defense, which argued that the defendant was not mentally competent at the time of the killing.
Ritthaler went missing Oct. 3, 2019, after being seen getting into a vehicle at coffee shop in Moorcroft, Woming. She was found Oct. 7 in the basement of the home the boy shared with his mother east of Sturgis in western South Dakota, near the border with Wyoming.
The prosecutor previously has said the suspect shot Ritthaler after an argument turned violent. The sheriff has said the victim died of a single gunshot wound to the head.
The arrest affidavit is sealed and officials have not yet shared how the two met, their relationship and the events leading up to her death.
The defendant remains in the juvenile jail in Rapid City on $1 million bond.