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Man gets 34 years in death of 2-year-old in Rapid City

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news Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

RAPID CITY (AP) — A man who pleaded guilty to killing his former girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter in Rapid City was sentenced to 34 years in prison in an emotional court hearing that saw an outpouring of grief from both sides.

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Edward Berges, 24, initially faced murder and other charges in the death a year ago of Evelyn Molnar. He pleaded guilty in May to manslaughter and was sentenced Thursday.

Authoritie said Berges became frustrated while watching Molnar and struck her in the head on Aug. 15, 2012. She was flown to a children's hospital in Sioux Falls, where she died.

Berges stared straight ahead during his sentencing, offering little emotion, while members of his family and the girl's family spoke.

"You took away what I always wanted and what I desired more than anything in the world," the girl's mother, Nicole Randall, said to Berges. "This will haunt me for the rest of my life."

Randall also tearfully forgave Berges, saying, "not just for you, but for myself so we can move ahead."

Randall's mother, Lisa Berry, was not so forgiving, telling Berges she was "hurt, bitter and angry" that she is deprived of her granddaughter's hugs and kisses.

"You took your stress and made a fist," she said. "She couldn't fight back."

Berges' parents and three aunts pleaded for leniency for the son and nephew they described as "a caring, generous person with a big heart."

"Both families are losing in this situation," said Berges' aunt, Shannon Magana.

Pennington County Deputy State's Attorney Ryan Ryder complied with terms of the plea agreement with Berges by asking Judge Robert Mandel for a 37-year sentence and saying he would not be opposed to the suspension of seven of those years. Defense attorney Dana Hanna asked for a 20-year sentence, saying that before the incident her client "was a completely law-abiding citizen."

"For a moment in his life, he gave in to his temper, when he couldn't make the child stop screaming," Hanna said.

Berges will have to serve at least half of his sentence before being eligible for parole.

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