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Calif. man held on $2.5M bond after body found in vehicle

A California man is being detained on a $2.5 million bond after reportedly leading police on a high-speed chase that ended with a dead woman found in his vehicle.

Tosten Walsh Lommen, 30, of Santa Cruz, Calif., is charged in Pennington County with aggravated eluding, drunken driving, reckless driving and resisting arrest.

The chase, which happened around noon on New Year’s Day, went through three counties, a prosecutor told the court Tuesday morning. After police disabled Walsh Lommen’s vehicle, he allegedly fled on foot then fought with arresting officers.

“There was a deceased person found in the vehicle,” Assistant State Attorney General Gina Nelson said, adding that the cause of death remains unexplained and under investigation. She said Walsh Lommen has a history involving drugs, firearms and assault.

Seventh Circuit Magistrate Judge Scott Bogue granted Nelson’s request for a $2.5 million cash or surety bond. He echoed the prosecution’s reasons, including that Walsh Lommen tried to evade authorities and is a flight risk since he doesn’t have ties to South Dakota.

Bogue said also that the court right now can’t take homicide “off the realm of possibility” in the woman’s death.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said in a release that the state Division of Criminal Investigation is looking into the “suspicious death.” The body hasn’t been identified yet, Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Sara Rabern said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Walsh Lommen is detained at the Pennington County Jail, where his bond amount is the highest among the current inmates. He appeared in court via video linkup with the jail, wearing a red-striped uniform, indicating he is segregated from the general inmate population.

According to a police statement obtained from court, Walsh Lommen caught the South Dakota Highway Patrol’s attention when a trooper saw him heading east on Interstate 90, in Lawrence County, “at speeds in excess of 100 mph.” The trooper failed to get him to stop.

Somewhere in Meade County, another trooper registered Walsh Lommen’s SUV traveling at 118 mph. The highway patrol and Rapid City police laid out spike strips, which deflated the vehicle’s front tires, bringing it to a stop in a ditch within Rapid City, the two-page probable cause affidavit states.

Walsh Lommen reportedly ran from the vehicle, but two troopers grabbed him as he was trying to go over a chain-link fence. A check of his driver’s license showed it was suspended in California, but he had been given a work permit to drive, according to the document.

A search of the SUV revealed “a female body in the rear of the vehicle wrapped in a blanket,” the statement reads.

Troopers also located prescription medication for Walsh Lommen, as well as credit cards belonging to Michelle Walsh, whose name also appears on the vehicle’s registration. Her relationship to Walsh Lommen is unclear. 

A preliminary breath test on Walsh Lommen showed he had a blood alcohol content of .142, according to the affidavit. That is almost twice the threshold for drunken driving, which is .08 BAC.

Aggravated eluding is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. Walsh Lommen’s three other charges are misdemeanors, each carrying a maximum penalty of a year in county jail.

He is scheduled to return to court for a preliminary hearing later this month.


Local
Council approves ordinance regulating pawnshops

In 2013, changes to a city ordinance regulating local pawnshops and secondhand dealers were met with resistance from many in the local industry.

But at the Rapid City Council meeting Tuesday night, another round of amendments to the ordinance was unanimously approved without an utterance from the council or anyone within the industry.

Changes in the ordinance — which will take effect later this month following the legally required publication requirements — include heightened restrictions on who can own and operate such businesses. Previously, only the primary owner/operator of the business was required to apply for a license from the city.

Under the new ordinance, anyone with a financial investment in the business would be required to apply for a license. In cases where more than five owners exist, the five most financially invested people would be required to obtain a license.

The city also expanded the list of criminal offenses that, if convicted, would cause an applicant to lose or be denied a license. The new list includes violent crimes like murder, manslaughter, rape, and aggravated assault, drug-related offenses like the manufacture, distribution or possession of controlled substances, and weapons offenses like possession of a controlled weapon or of a weapon with an altered serial number.

Previously, Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris said after the meeting, a decision to deny or revoke was largely a judgment call.

No one with a conviction for such crimes — or three misdemeanor convictions — in the past five years would be issued a license. In the case of multiple owners, if one of the owner’s licenses was revoked following such a conviction, the business could continue to operate once the person with the revoked license was no longer financially invested in the business.

Additionally, increased documentation requirements of transactions now require digital photographs to be taken of all jewelry purchased or received.

“None of it affects us,” said Trevor Johnson, president and part-owner of Presidential Pawn at 629 St. Joseph St., on Tuesday of the ordinance changes. Johnson said his company streamlined their documentation process about six or seven years ago and was already compliant when the ordinance was altered in 2013, and with the current ordinance changes, too. He opined that it likely wouldn’t affect any other area pawnshops.

Cory Condon, manager of Presidential Pawn, explained that local pawnshops are required to enter the documentation — including a scanned copy of the customer’s ID, photo of the item, and detailed descriptions of any of the item’s identifying marks— into an online database, Leads Online, each night after the shop closed.

Lou Anagnostopulos, owner of Dakota Coin & Precious Metals at 615 St. Joseph St., said the biggest change to his company would be the heightened photography requirements for jewelry transactions. Of all the area pawn shops, secondhand dealers and gem/precious metal dealers, Anagnostopulos said he thought his business would be the only one affected by the change, but that it would be minimal compared with 2013, when his business was included into the regulations previously required of just pawnshops.

Johnson, Condon and Anagnostopulos each explained how a clause introduced in the 2013 ordinance requiring their business to “hold” all goods purchased or received for five days after the transaction date was their biggest challenge then, and a challenge they continue to face today. The price of gold or silver fluctuates daily, and having to devote large amounts of cash and then sit on their purchases for five days sometimes made business difficult.

Compared with that, they said, the changes adopted Tuesday night were nothing.


News
Jackley: SD needs to get tougher on meth

PIERRE | The state attorney general said Tuesday requiring longer prison times for distributing meth in South Dakota could lead to fewer men and women in state prisons.

Marty Jackley said that’s one reason he intends to ask the Legislature for tougher sentences for meth distribution. He predicted word would spread within the illegal drug culture that distributing meth in South Dakota would mean longer stays behind bars for those convicted.

South Dakota’s state prisons are running at record high levels of inmates, and Jackley said majorities of men and women in the prisons have committed crimes involving meth.

He planned to give statistics to reporters at news conferences today in Sioux Falls and Rapid City showing numbers from 2002 through October 2016 of meth labs found, meth arrests made and pounds of meth seized in South Dakota.

Jackley described his plan as “the next logical step” after the Legislature took a tougher approach he suggested regarding meth manufacturers that began in 2013.

He said the message would be similar to highway billboards from the era of Gov. Bill Janklow warning drug offenders would do time if caught in South Dakota. Janklow, a former attorney general, was governor from 1979 through 1986 and from 1995 through 2002.

Jackley is serving his final year as attorney general. He is one of four men and women seeking the Republican nomination for governor in the June primary election.

In an interview Tuesday evening, Jackley said he was being careful to stay in his lane as attorney general. “Don’t distribute meth into our South Dakota communities, or face serious consequences,” he said.

The 2018 session of the Legislature opens Jan. 9 and runs through March.

Jackley said he met Tuesday afternoon with Gov. Dennis Daugaard to review Jackley’s legislative package. Daugaard, a Republican, is serving his final year as governor.

South Dakota tax revenues have been lower than the Legislature budgeted for the current fiscal year that started July 1.

Daugaard last month recommended zero raises for state government employees, public schools and providers of state Medicaid services during the coming budget year. He also asked legislators to significantly reduce the current budget.

One reason for the smaller tax collections is believed to be goods and services that South Dakotans buy remotely such as over the internet and from mail-order sources. Those transactions traditionally weren’t subject to state and local sales taxes if the seller didn’t have a physical presence in South Dakota.

The Legislature adopted a law in 2016 calling for many out-of-state businesses without a South Dakota physical presence to collect state and local taxes on purchases made by South Dakotans.

The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled last year the law violated a federal protection originally provided by the U.S. Supreme Court and upheld during a second case.

Daugaard and Jackley challenged the South Dakota Supreme Court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court in the hope that changed circumstances would produce a different result. Jackley plans to argue the case to the federal justices if they decide to hear it this year.

Jackley said Tuesday he would outline details of his legislative package at the news conferences today and through a news release.

His proposals include:

• Increasing the penalty for distribution and manufacturing methamphetamine to a Class 3 felony punishable by 15 years and $30,000. The crime currently is a Class 4 felony with maximums of 10 years and $20,000.

• Meth distributors and manufacturers would face Class 2 felonies if caught with cash, firearms or drug-trafficking items. The maximum penalties would be 25 years and $50,000. They currently are Class 3 felonies.

• Distributing meth to a minor would be a Class 1 felony with 50 years and $50,000 as maximums. It currently is a Class 2 felony.

• A state prison sentence would be mandatory for distributing or manufacturing meth unless at least one of five conditions was met, similar to the federal sentence requirements.

• Increasing the sentence by two felony classes for a distributor or maker of a controlled substance if the transaction was illegal and the person receiving it dies.

• Requiring the reporting to consumers within 45 days of discovering data breaches of personal information regarding them and to the attorney general if more than 250 South Dakota residents are affected.

• Making an attempt to engage in human trafficking of minors subject to the same Class 2 felony penalties as now apply to actual trafficking of minors.

• Better defining sex-offender registry requirements and making repeat offenders subject to Class 5 penalties up five years and $10,000.


Jackley


Local
County: Developers must pay for residential access road

Developers, not county taxpayers, will have to pony up to build a secondary access road linking remote housing tracts to S.D. Highway 44 east of Rapid City, Pennington County Commissioners decided Tuesday.

The commission voted 4-1 to cease any further planning for a 1.3-mile extension of Back Country Trail to South Airport Road, located south of Highway 44, approximately 8 miles east of Rapid City. Commissioners Ron Buskerud, Lloyd LaCroix, Deb Hadcock and Mark DiSanto voted to end the project, while George Ferebee voted against ceasing it.

“Whoever wants to develop out there is going to have to do something about it, not us,” said Pennington County Highway Superintendent Tom Wilsey after the commission’s decision.

“Basically what this is saying is, you want to build out there, you’re going to have to pony up."

Wilsey said commissioners had requested an estimated cost of a secondary access road linking Back Country Trail to South Airport Road.

The initial request was prompted by concerns residents had over deterioration of a bridge spanning Rapid Creek on Bradsky Road, currently providing the only direct access to Back Country Trail.

The bridge is slated to be replaced this year at a cost of $617,817, in an 80/20 split of federal and county funds, with the county’s portion of the project listed at $123,584.

Wilsey told the commission adding approximately 6,000 feet of county roadway linking Back Country Trail to another bridge on South Airport Road would cost approximately $200,000, with the county then becoming liable for maintaining not only the new road, but also 1,300 feet of existing Back Country Trail at an annual cost of $7,600.

“We’re requesting that you advise us if you wish us to proceed with this project,” Wilsey told commissioners.

A highway department memo to the commission estimated survey costs of $10,000 for the project, with plan preparation to take about three months and construction, if approved, to take about two months.

Wilsey said adding the secondary road to the scheduled bridge repair project would require an additional environmental study of up to 18 months and could delay the bridge project, currently slated for completion in August, by up to two years.

In comments made outside of the meeting, Wilsey said there are 56 homes in three developments currently served by the Bradsky Road. County recommendations, he said, stipulate that developments with over 40 residences have more than one access road. 

“That breaks that code,” he said.

But commissioners said the county is tasked only with building and maintaining bridges on existing county roads, while costs for additional access roads are up to developers.

“We have to remember that bridges by statute are our responsibility," Buskerud said. "Roads to developments out in the country aren’t our responsibility."

In other action Tuesday, the commission:

• Made good on a decision made at its Dec. 19 meeting to reinstate funds to the 2018 county budget to cover the cost of security for the Pennington County Administration Building.

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom had included cutting the equivalent of 1.5 security jobs in the amount of $72,869, as part of a total of $434,064 worth of cuts from various programs under the sheriff’s supervision, including law enforcement, alcohol and drug treatment, the county jail, juvenile detention and a sobriety monitoring program.

But county employees railed against proposed cut in security, which includes an officer stationed at a highly visible desk at the building’s main entrance.

Commissioners decided Tuesday to pay for the the cost of the security position, as well as the $7,013 cost of a county treasurer satellite office in Wall, through the use of $165,000 in contingency funds in the 2018 county budget.

• Elected Lloyd LaCroix as 2018 commission chairman succeeding Deb Hadcock. Mark DiSanto is vice chairman.