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Grandfather of dead boy suffers stroke in courtroom

CHAMBERLAIN — A 54-year-old man was taken from the Brule County Courthouse courtroom Tuesday morning after suffering a stroke.

Myron Walters Ziegler is the maternal grandfather of Mason Naser, the 4-year-old boy who died in February 2013 after being beaten to death by his caretaker, Donika Gonzales.

Gonzales stood trial for the death of Naser in April in the same courtroom in Chamberlain. Ziegler and other family members were in the courtroom Tuesday for Gonzales’ sentencing for first-degree manslaughter and aggravated assault. Judge Bruce Anderson sentenced her to 130 years in prison for first-degree manslaughter and 15 years in prison for aggravated assault. A jury found Gonzales guilty of the charges in April.

Ziegler attended the whole trial.

His daughter, Malissa Walters, said her father suffered a minor stroke, which was related to extreme stress he’s endured over the last year.

“His wife said before court started, ‘There’s something wrong with your dad. He hasn’t been himself the last few days, like he’s super stressed out,’ ” Walters said.

She added that Ziegler has been trying to ensure his family is taken care of since Naser died. The stress of that, and losing his grandchild, are what caused the stroke, she said.

Ziegler sat in the third row on the right side of the courtroom Tuesday. As court recessed around 10:30 a.m. for the judge to deliberate a sentence for Gonzales, murmurs of “heart attack” came from the second and third row.

Brule County sheriff’s deputies quickly called medical personnel by radio and cell phone. Another official brought an automatic external defibrillator, or AED, from the fi rst floor of the building to monitor Ziegler’s heart.

“Stay with us,” officials repeated loudly. “Keep talking.”

Medical personnel arrived within 15 minutes, evaluated the situation and took Ziegler away on a stretcher to the Chamberlain hospital.

Walters said hospital personnel ran tests on Ziegler and determined he’s had five minor strokes and three minor heart attacks in his life.

Despite the episode today, Ziegler refused to stay in the hospital and is doing alright, Walters said.