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Kent Davidson murder trial moved from Chamberlain

CHAMBERLAIN — A judge will move the trial for a man accused of killing a 26-year-old Mitchell woman out of Brule County.

Kent Davidson, 37, was scheduled to stand trial next month at the Brule County Courthouse in Chamberlain. During a hearing Friday in Chamberlain, Judge Bruce Anderson granted a request from Davidson’s attorneys, Clint Sargent and Raleigh Hansman, both of Sioux Falls, to move Davidson’s trial.

As a result of the move, Davidson’s trial has been rescheduled for June, according to Sara Rabern, spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office. It could take place in Sioux Falls, based on discussion at Friday’s hearing.

Davidson is accused of fatally shooting his fiancée, 26-year-old Crystal Schulz, in the head with a shotgun March 11. Schulz’s body was found March 14 in a shed at her mother’s residence in rural Chamberlain. Court documents allege Davidson killed Schulz because she was planning to end their relationship.

Davidson was arrested following a standoff with law enforcement at an apartment in Sioux Falls after Schulz’s body was found.

Davidson faces multiple charges, including first-degree murder.

Kent Davidson  During Friday’s hearing, Sargent said questionnaires were sent to members of the prospective jury pool in Brule County, 172 of which were returned. Based on those questionnaires, Sargent said, nearly half the potential jurors in Brule County are apparently biased against Davidson.

“They’ve already prejudged the case and decided it,” he said.

The number of biased potential jurors could be even higher, Sargent added, because many people aren’t comfortable fully expressing themselves on questionnaires.

“It does take somebody with a strong constitution to stand up and go against the community’s will,” he said.

Assistant Attorney General Bob Mayer and Brule County State’s Attorney David Natvig, who are prosecuting the case, resisted the change of venue, but admitted they also observed bias among the potential jurors, based on the questionnaires.

Anderson agreed that many members of the prospective jury pool in Brule County appear to have already formed an opinion on the case.

“These numbers are not good, as far as the jurors in the community’s attitude,” he said, referring to the questionnaires.

Crystal Schulz  Anderson said he anticipates moving Davidson’s trial to Sioux Falls, in Minnehaha County, where the number of potential jurors will be much greater. Another questionnaire could be sent to potential jurors in that county.

Anderson also denied several motions to suppress statements Davidson made to a crisis negotiator during the standoff, and to investigators following his arrest. Anderson suppressed statements Davidson made more than two hours into an interview with investigators after his arrest because Davidson invoked his right to remain silent.