Fort Thompson man pleads guilty to killing man during fight
FORT THOMPSON -- A Fort Thompson man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for killing a man during a fight in May 2017, according to recently filed federal court documents.
FORT THOMPSON - A Fort Thompson man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for killing a man during a fight in May 2017, according to recently filed federal court documents.
According to the United States Attorney's Office, charges stem from a May 23 incident, in which Zachery Ziegler killed Thomas Witt "upon a sudden quarrel and heat of passion."
According to court documents, Ziegler entered a residence in the east housing area of the Crow Creek Reservation uninvited and was asked to leave, at which time he engaged in a physical confrontation with Witt.
A witness told police Ziegler hit Witt in the head with his fists, knocking Witt unconscious. He then continued to kick Witt and fled the scene in a vehicle.
When police arrived, they witnessed Ziegler driving past the scene and signaled at him to stop. When he did, officers smelled alcohol and administered a preliminary breath test that registered a blood alcohol level of 0.18.
Ziegler was arrested, and Witt was pronounced dead at a Chamberlain hospital later that evening.
An autopsy confirmed Witt's cause of death to be a traumatic brain injury and listed his death as a homicide.
On May 24, Ziegler told investigators the fight began because Ziegler was told earlier in the day that Witt raped his daughter, and Ziegler admitted to hitting Witt during the fight. When investigators told Ziegler that Witt had died, Ziegler allegedly began crying and asked, "so I'm a murderer?" The interview was discontinued at that time.
Ziegler initially pleaded not guilty to voluntary manslaughter in June, but recently reached a plea agreement with prosecutors, pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A change of plea hearing and sentencing hearing had not been scheduled as of Wednesday afternoon.