Mitchell man pleads guilty to first-degree rape of 7 year old victim, facing up to life in prison

A memory card found in Robert Gerstenecker’s Mitchell residence showed video footage of what special agents believed to be Gerstenecker, 43, engaging in sexual acts with a minor under the age of 13.

The Davison County Public Safety Center/
The Davison County Public Safety Center.
Republic file photo
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MITCHELL — A Mitchell man who was charged for raping a minor and possessing child pornography could spend life in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to the rape charge.

After Davison County state prosecuting attorneys read the graphic allegations of the rape charge during Tuesday's felony court proceedings, an emotional Robert Gerstenecker, 43, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree rape of minor under the age of 13.

Gerstenecker is facing a maximum sentence of up to life in prison for the first-degree rape charge, which is a Class C felony. However, he struck a plea agreement with state prosecutors that recommended a 75-year prison sentence rather than the maximum punishment of life in prison.

Deputy State’s Attorney Robert O’Keefe said during the hearing that the victim who Gerstencker raped was 7 years old at the time.

A memory card that authorities obtained in Gerstenecker’s Mitchell residence showing video footage of what special agents believed to be Gerstenecker engaging in sexual acts with a minor under the age of 13 led to the rape charge, according to court documents.


Authorities searched Gerstenecker’s residence after law enforcement received a tip on April 11 alleging they spotted child pornography on Gerstenecker’s live feed during a video call. The reporting party managed to take screenshots of what they believed to be child pornography material, which were then turned over to law enforcement.

Special agents with the state’s Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) determined the sexual acts occurred between Oct. 4, 2021, and Jan. 29, 2022.

According to court documents, the cell phone that had the memory card containing child pornography and video of the rape was found hidden between a mattress and box spring inside Gerstenecker’s residence.

He was indicted by a grand jury on April 13 before a status hearing was canceled on April 14 and charged with 10 counts of child pornography, one count of first-degree rap of a victim under the age of 13, one count of sexual contact with a child under the age of 16 and possession of methamphetamine.

Judge Chris Giles noted on Tuesday that he is not bound by the plea agreement on imposing Gerstenecker’s sentencing on Dec. 20.

Giles denied modifying Gerstenecker’s bond prior to his upcoming sentencing hearing. He will remain in custody on a no bond hold until he is sentenced.

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Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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