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UPDATE: Davidson pleads not guilty in Schulz murder

CHAMBERLAIN -- The man accused of killing a Mitchell woman in March pleaded not guilty Monday to murder and other charges against him. Kent Gene Davidson, 36, is accused of killing Crystal Schulz, 26, on March 11. The two were engaged to be marri...

Davidson in court
Kent Davidson, left, is escorted Monday out of the Brule County Courthouse in Chamberlain by Chief Deputy Tory Engel, center, and Deputy Scott Powers. (Jordan Steffen/Daily Republic)

CHAMBERLAIN -- The man accused of killing a Mitchell woman in March pleaded not guilty Monday to murder and other charges against him.

Kent Gene Davidson, 36, is accused of killing Crystal Schulz, 26, on March 11. The two were engaged to be married, according to their Facebook pages. Her body was found March 14 in a shed at her mother's residence in rural Chamberlain.

Davidson was arraigned Monday afternoon at the Brule County Courthouse. Brule County sheriff's deputies escorted him into the courtroom on the second floor of the building. He was shackled and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit with a white bulletproof vest under a dark blue hooded sweatshirt.

Schulz's family, including her mother Aggie Clement and brother Austin Schulz, sat in the sec- ond row in the courtroom.

Davidson was indicted in March on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter. A fourth charge alleges Davidson possessed a firearm while committing a felony.

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Judge Bruce Anderson apprised Davidson of his rights Monday, and Davidson requested a court-appointed attorney. Anderson appointed Sioux Falls attorney Clint Sargent to continue representing Davidson.

As Brule County State's Attorney David Natvig read the indictment, Davidson kept his eyes on the defendant's table and often clenched his jaw. During the proceeding and as he left the courtroom, Davidson did not glance at Schulz's family.

Last week, a five-year prison sentence was reimposed on Davidson for his failure to return to a minimum-security facility where he was living while on parole last year. It was after he absconded from parole that, according to his Facebook page and Schulz's, the two became engaged.

Conviction on a first-degree murder charge carries a punishment of no less than life in prison and possibly death. A second-degree murder charge carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Manslaughter carries a maximum punishment of life in prison. Each murder charge and the manslaughter charge can also carry a $50,000 fine. Davidson can only be convicted of one of those three charges.

Davidson would have to be convicted on one of those charges to also be convicted of commission of a felony while armed with a firearm. That latter charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, a $50,000 fine or both, unless he is also convicted of being a habitual offender, which could bring a stiffer penalty.

Natvig presented information Monday alleging Davidson is a habitual offender. The state alleges he has five prior felony convictions on his record -- theft of property and unauthorized use of a vehicle in Stutsman County, N.D.; forgery in Cass County, N.D.; forgery in Tripp County; and escape in Minnehaha County.

"In your particular case, there are two trials," Judge Anderson said. "The jury will decide if you are guilty or not guilty of murder or manslaughter. If they decide you are guilty, then the state has to prove the alleged habitual offender charge."

The state would need to prove Davidson committed at least three of the five felony charges, Anderson said. If he were convicted as a habitual offender, the prison time for commission of a felony while armed with a firearm could be upgraded to a maximum life sentence.

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Davidson will continue to be held at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls, and Judge Anderson said the warden is willing to work with Brule County to bring Davidson to Chamberlain when needed.

"With that broader order, then we only have to give 24 hours' notice for the sheriff's department to get him and bring him here," Anderson said.

Otherwise, court hearings may be conducted with the aid of interactive television if needed, he said.

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