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Kent Davidson is charged with murder in the death of Crystal Schulz.

Murder defendant Davidson wants trial moved from Chamberlain

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The defense in a Chamberlain murder case claims suspect Kent Davidson will not get a fair trial in Brule County, and the mother of the victim is trying to prevent a plea bargain.

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Davidson’s attorney, Clint Sargent, filed motions recently requesting a change of venue and asking that several pieces of evidence be suppressed.

Davidson, 36, is accused of fatally shooting 26-year-old Crystal Schulz, of Mitchell, twice in the back of the head in March in rural Chamberlain. The two were engaged to be married, according to Schulz’s and Davidson’s Facebook pages. Schulz’s body was found March 14 at the farmstead of her mother, Agnes Clement.

Recently, Clement posted a petition on MoveOn.org pleading for signatures to stop the possibility of Davidson getting a plea deal. The petition claims the plea deal would offer Davidson the opportunity to plead down to first-degree manslaughter — a charge that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, a $50,000 fine or both.

Davidson is charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and commission of a felony while armed with a firearm. Both murder charges carry minimum life sentences upon conviction. First-degree murder can warrant a death sentence, but the state has already announced it will not seek the death penalty.

In an attempt to show that Davidson would not get a fair trial in Brule County, Sargent filed a list of articles published in The Daily Republic regarding the case; Facebook pages where the MoveOn.org petition link was shared; and a printed version of a television interview Clement did regarding the case.

The petition on MoveOn.org claims a plea agreement has been proposed and states, “The prosecuting attorney suggested saving taxpayers money by accepting this plea offering.”

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley responded to the claim via email Wednesday to The Daily Republic.

“Plea discussions are generally not allowable as evidence or for public information. In order to avoid misinformation, there has been no plea offer by the state in this case and there is no plea agreement,” he said.

  In a phone interview with The Daily Republic, Clement claimed she has been woefully uninformed of the happenings in the case — “I am always the last to know,” she said.

“Manslaughter is not good enough,” Clement said. “He led Crystal into that shed and shot her. That’s premeditated. Murder is murder. He shot Crystal in the head two times.”

In an email reply to The Daily Republic, Assistant Attorney General Bob Mayer said possible case resolutions like a plea offering are normal discussions.

“Just because the matter has been raised with the victim does not necessarily mean the state is willing to do anything,” he wrote. “Rather, it is important to keep the lines of communication between the prosecution team and the victim open. That is all. There is no plea agreement in this case.”

The defense also filed motions to suppress statements Davidson made in March to a Sioux Falls crisis negotiation unit during a standoff between Davidson and authorities, and interviews given to South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation agents Toby Russell and Dave Stephan. The defense claims Davidson did not understand his Miranda rights during the crisis negotiation. The defense also claims he was not read his rights in an April phone interview and did not understand his rights when read them during an in-person interview in April.

The defense wants to exclude some of Davidson’s statements and actions prior to his arrest, including the standoff he had with law enforcement in Sioux Falls. Davidson walked away from a minimum security facility in Rapid City last October. When Schulz’s body was found in March, the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office issued a statewide alert asking for the public’s help in finding Davidson, who was suspected in Schulz’s death. On March 15, Davidson was found at an apartment building in Sioux Falls where he was staying with a friend. Law enforcement surrounded the building, weapons drawn, for 2½ hours until Davidson surrendered.

Other statements and actions the defense is seeking to exclude are Davidson’s statement that he has pancreatic cancer; protection orders against him filed by his mother and stepfather; his statement that he was not working for fear of being caught as a parole absconder; and information regarding his company and conduct while Schulz was reported missing.

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