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Lake Andes man appealing homicide conviction

LAKE ANDES — A Lake Andes man who was convicted of two counts of vehicular homicide has appealed the case because he feels his blood was improperly used as evidence.

Ronald Fischer, 31, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the deaths of Maegan Spindler, 25, and Rob Klumb, 46. Both were U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials doing research on the Missouri River and died July 8, 2013. The vehicle Fischer was driving crashed into them while they were stopped in a motel parking lot.

Before Fischer's conviction, attorney Tim Whalen moved to suppress Fischer's blood samples, which were taken at Wagner Community Memorial Hospital and Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls without a search warrant. The blood samples showed that Fischer had alcohol in his body during the crash and he was legally drunk.

Bruce Anderson, the circuit court judge presiding over the case, dismissed the Avera McKennan samples but allowed the samples from Wagner to be used as evidence. Anderson decided these were taken strictly for medical use, and they were protected due to exigent circumstances, meaning law enforcement did not have time to receive a warrant before Fischer was airlifted to Sioux Falls.

Now, Fischer and Whalen seek to discover whether the trial court committed reversible error by failing to grant Fischer's motion to suppress the Wagner samples and allowing them as evidence. In a court document, Whalen argues that law enforcement had time to obtain a warrant, which would mean the officers seized the blood samples illegally, and the samples could not be used as evidence.

Whalen said the appeal will go to the South Dakota Supreme Court. If the court affirms the decision of the trial court, then the motion to suppress remains defeated, and the situation will be unchanged.

If the Supreme Court reverses the decision of the trial court, however, then the case goes back to the circuit court for further proceedings.

Gregg Spindler, father of Maegan Spindler, said his family is not surprised that Fischer and Whalen filed an appeal.

"His bloody hands continue to shape our lives two years on," Spindler said in a written statement, quoting a line used by his daughter, Tamara, during the sentencing.

Though unsurprising, Spindler said the appeal has still impacted him.

"How are victims' families supposed to feel when this killer is trying to get out of jail on a legal technicality?" he said. "The grief of the parents and siblings of the two victims will last our entire lives."

Whalen submitted the appeal on May 14, almost two months after Fischer's initial sentencing on March 23 in Charles Mix County. That is because an appeal cannot be filed until after the final judgement of conviction, and the judgement was amended twice since the sentencing.

After a final judgement is issued, an attorney has 30 days to file an appeal. The second amendment of the conviction was concluded on April 23, less than three weeks before the appeal was filed.

It is unknown when the South Dakota Supreme Court will make a ruling on the appeal.