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After drawn-out case, woman gets 6 years in prison for caffeine poisoning

A woman originally charged with trying to kill her now-ex-husband and setting fire to their house in 2015 was sentenced Tuesday morning to spend six years in prison.

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Dawn Long, center, steps out of the elevator on her way to the courtroom as the Davison County Public Safety building on Thursday afternoon in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

A woman originally charged with trying to kill her now-ex-husband and setting fire to their house in 2015 was sentenced Tuesday morning to spend six years in prison.

Dawn Long, 40, who has moved to Ethan since she was indicted, was sentenced by a Davison County circuit court to 15 years in prison with nine years suspended for aggravated assault, to which she pleaded no contest on Feb. 21. She was also credited for the two days she served in jail following her arrest.

“You need to be held accountable as part of this plea agreement, but that needs to be balanced with the potential for rehabilitation,” Judge Chris Giles said Tuesday.

In addition to her prison sentence, Long cannot have contact with victim Todd Long, and she must undergo counseling, pay Todd Long restitution for any civil judgment related to the case, and pay a $1,500 fine, $104 in court costs and court-appointed attorney’s fees. She was taken into custody by the Davison County Sheriff’s Office immediately after sentencing.

Long was first indicted on one count of reckless burning in October 2015, when law enforcement had suspicions that she had set the house she then shared with Todd Long and their son on fire.

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A warrant was issued, and at the end of a police pursuit through Badlands National Park on Oct. 8, Long was ejected through her vehicle’s windshield during what Keith Goehring, one of Long’s attorneys, said Tuesday was a rollover crash over a cliff, and she was taken to a hospital for emergency medical attention.

Goehring said that following the crash, Long had retrograde amnesia and was unable over several days in the hospital to recognize her family members or remember recent events, and that while her memory eventually came back, there are still some lapses.

“The last three and a half years have been pretty hard. I don’t know what happened,” Long said.

About three months after the house fire and subsequent chase, Long was arrested and released on a personal recognizance bond the same day. She pleaded not guilty to the reckless burning charge a month later.

On July 22, 2016, Long was charged with attempted first-degree murder in connection with an incident in which she put caffeine pills in rum consumed by Todd Long on Oct. 5 of the previous year, leading to Todd Long being taken to the hospital.

Todd Long, who was called as a witness by the state on Tuesday, stated that he and Dawn Long were planning to go over details of their pending divorce on the night of Oct. 5 and that he had thought the drinks he poured himself tasted off. He said that soon after, he began vomiting and was eventually taken to the hospital.

Todd Long said that police were notified of the incident after a nurse overheard Long talking with a friend in the hospital about how he thought Dawn Long may have tried to kill him.

“The last three years and seven months has been pure hell for my son and me,” Todd Long testified, referencing his son who was in sixth grade at the time his mother was arrested. “Even before that, I do want the court to know that this wasn’t just some random act of her acting out when we were getting divorced.”

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A warrant was returned on July 26, and Long was again released on bond three days later.

Long maintained not guilty pleas to both charges for more than two years each before her change of plea hearing in February.

At the February hearing, the state dismissed the rest of Long’s charges and agreed to a maximum possible sentence of 15 years in prison with seven of those years suspended as part of the plea deal.

Long’s attorneys argued prior to sentencing that she has had no bond violations, that she had no criminal history excluding traffic violations prior to October 2015 and that she wants to move on with her life. While out on bond, Long had another child, and discussion Tuesday indicated that she is currently pregnant.

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