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Dreaming big at 'Idol' tryout

They arrived by the hundreds Sunday, lining up outside of Rushmore Plaza Civic Center for their 90-second shot at fame.

Country crooners, ukulele players, rhythm and blues singers, rappers and pop star wannabes crossed their fingers, bit back nerves and belted out the tunes before American Idol casting producer Nancy Yearing.

Only the very best would get the nod to go on to Los Angeles for the second level of auditions. From there, the talent search show's executive producer would choose only a select few to go on the show before the star-studded panel judges.

Erin Perry, 21, drove from Hulett, Wyo., a town of 490 people. How cool would it be for one of its own to make the audition cut, she mused.

Music is who she is.

"From what my mom tells me, I've been singing since I could talk," Perry said from her seat in the civic center arena.

Shonna Gibbons insisted her boyfriend, Miguel Ruiz, audition for American Idol. The hotel housekeeper from Chadron, Neb., has been wowing family, friends and even hotel guests with his singing.

"He can be heard throughout the whole hotel most of the time," Gibbons said of 22-year-old Ruiz, noting how he sings while he cleans.

Ebony Musonda, 16, and her mom came to Rapid City from Scranton, N.D. Her friends persuaded her to give the auditions a try.

"If I don't try, I will never know," she said, holding her ukulele on her lap. "I don't want to be asking 'what if' for the rest of my life."

And if she doesn't make the cut, it won't deter her.

"You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take," she said.

For Soleil Bashale, a 20-year-old disc jockey from Sioux Falls, and Josh Hannant, a 21-year-old from Gillette, Wyo., the audition was a chance for longtime friends to reunite after eight years apart.

"God put us here together," Hannant said.

The two used their audition waiting time to pump up the crowd and alleviate everyone's jitters.

Running back and forth across the arena, they led each side in sing-offs, cheers and entertained everyone with flips and wild dances.

Bashale auditioned for television's "The Voice" when he was 15.

"It didn't go well at all," he said. "But there is always room to progress."

Hannant auditioned for "The X Factor" when he was 16. He made the first cut, flew out to Long Beach, Calif., and there it ended.

Sure, he could have given up, Hannant said. But he believes the dashed dreams, as well as his current dreams, are all part of the bigger plan God has in store for him.

He realizes now that he was too young when he auditioned for "The X Factor." As for the rejection?

"It lit my fire," Hannant said.

And Sunday, that fire was raging.

"I just want to be an inspiration," Hannant said.

For Destiny Cyr, that inspiration was hard to find. She had just completed her audition.

The 19-year-old didn't make the cut.

"It went OK ... well, it was kind of crappy," the Rapid City teen confessed.

Ninety seconds isn't a lot of time to impress the judges — especially when you are trying to overcome nerves. Most people, including Cyr, were cut off by the judges well before the 90 second mark.

"It was not what I expected," she admitted.

This was her second tryout for a television talent search. She tried out for "The X Factor" previously. That was worse, she said, noting the nearly 10-hour wait only to perform behind closed curtain.

Come May 2018, she will head to St. Louis for auditions for "The Voice."

"We do what we gotta do to make our kids happy," said Cyr's mom, Mandy Cyr.

Because sometimes, dreams do come true.

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Hubbel hopes to root out corruption with Governor run

Editor's note: Today we start a four-part series introducing readers to the four candidates who have entered the race to be governor in 2018.

Lora Hubbel is a former legislator from Sioux Falls and is a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018. 

Why she’s running

Hubbel said she learned from her 2014 challenge to Gov. Dennis Daugaard it wasn’t wise to run against “the status quo.” As for “the rank and file” of Republicans, however: “They’re my people.”

“I think I have the crowd. These labels have been applied to people they don’t apply to,” she said.

Hubbel told a story about a weak apple tree in her yard. She tried to get better apples. Finally she cut it down and planted a new tree. Now she has good apples.

She thinks that should happen in South Dakota’s Republican Party. Cut down the corrupt tree, with its bad fruit of EB-5 and GEAR UP, and plant new, she said.

Former Gov. Mike Rounds, now a U.S. senator, “hijacked” South Dakota, and now “our conservative state” is the third-most reliant on the federal Obamacare health system, according to Hubbel.

The Common Core approach to K-12 education standards took hold during Rounds’ second term as governor and moved into place under Daugaard’s administration. “Not a person alive likes Common Core,” Hubbel said. “We’re a governing state for that. Not a participating state, but a governing state.”

She sent a letter to Daugaard complaining about Common Core. She said he sent a letter back suggesting she do more research.

“Where does the corruption come from?” Hubbel asked. “If there’s no law with teeth, people are going to do it.”

She added: “It’s morals. My compass, true north is true north.” She said others have a legal compass — what’s legal or not — or a money compass.

How she’s organized her campaign

Hubbel said she waited too long to start her campaign in 2014 against Daugaard as he sought re-election. She began in October 2013.

This time, the governor’s election is an open seat, because of South Dakota’s limit of two consecutive elections for state constitutional officers. 

“That’s my frustration. There’s better people to run, but they’re not,” she said.

Hubbel served one term, 2011 through 2012, in the state House of Representatives. She lost three in a row since then.

She ran in the 2012 Republican primary against Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford. Peters won, 405 votes to 363.

Hubbel ran in the 2014 Republican primary for governor against Daugaard. He won, 60,017 votes to 14,196.

She challenged Peters again in a 2016 primary, and Peters won again, 569 votes to 441.

“I know where the land mines are. That’s why I’m running. I need to,” Hubbel said.

One of her ideas is to pay legislators in proportion to how much they work. She wants federal money removed from state government’s budget.

“I have to knock a few walls down,” she said. She added, “If I could just control my mouth.”

Obamacare health-insurance premiums cost more than some recipients’ house payments, she said. “I saw how it was going to hurt people," she said.

One answer is in a book by former U.S. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, according to Hubbel. “It’s pretty simple. We can refuse to implement it (Obamacare),” she said.

How she’s raising money

 “I haven’t even started yet,” Hubbel said. She planned to “flip” three re-possessed houses she bought and use the proceeds as seed money. But that hasn’t worked out.

She showed photos on her phone of one place, its rooms crammed with empty plastic bottles, including the spot where the former resident slept atop them. She’s been busy cleaning the mess.

“I couldn’t even hire somebody to do it,” she said.

How she plans to pick her lieutenant governor: Hubbel said she’s asked a person. “He’s still thinking about it,” she said.

How she greets people

She was guarded at the State Fair. She didn’t know Republicans had a hall. She said her parents brought her to the fair as a child.


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Colorado man to plead guilty in 2016 fatal shooting on Pine Ridge

A Colorado man accused of fatally shooting a female acquaintance on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation last September is set to plead guilty next month.

Orlando Guadalupe Jose Ephron Villanueva de Macias, 37, would plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of 34-year-old Annie Colhoff. The federal crime is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, but prosecutors have agreed to ask for no more than five years as part of Villanueva’s plea deal with the government.

Villanueva admitted shooting Colhoff on Sept. 29 after they got into an argument at her home in Pine Ridge, according to a statement that accompanied the plea deal.

“Both the defendant and Colhoff were armed with weapons,” the two-page statement reads. “The defendant walked out of Colhoff’s residence and Colhoff, still armed with a knife, followed him continuing to quarrel. The defendant shot Colhoff four times with a handgun and fled the area.”

Colhoff, also known as Chunta Suta Wi Colhoff, died from her gunshot wounds. The statement didn’t say what she and Villanueva argued about.

Details about Colhoff’s killing first emerged in April when a Pine Ridge woman, who said she witnessed the shooting, pleaded guilty to concealing information regarding the incident from authorities.

Tyler Schae Brewer, 26, pointed to Villanueva as the shooter. Brewer said she, Villanueva and another Pine Ridge woman drove to Colhoff's residence, where Colhoff had allowed Villanueva to temporarily stay. The shooting happened around 8 p.m., Brewer said, and afterwards the three of them fled to Rapid City.

There, they met up with Myles Tuttle and Tiffanee Garnier, both of whom would later be charged in the shooting death of Vincent Brewer III at a Pine Ridge youth center in October. Tuttle then drove Villanueva, Brewer and Garnier to Denver. Federal authorities have said there may be links to the two killings, which occurred about two weeks apart. 

Villanueva, also known as Chris, was originally charged with second-degree murder and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence. He was charged also with possession of ammunition by a prohibited person, being someone convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison.

These charges will be dismissed in accordance with his plea agreement. Second-degree murder, his most serious charge, had exposed him to a potential life sentence.

His lawyer, Ellery Grey, declined to divulge the factors that influenced prosecutors’ agreeing to cap their prison recommendation at five years. Grey said the reasons will become clear during Villanueva's sentencing hearing. It will be scheduled after his expected plea-change hearing Oct. 6 at the Rapid City federal courthouse. He is detained at the Pennington County Jail. 

Villanueva and Brewer's other female companion, Stevie Ray Makes Good, was charged with making a false statement to authorities by saying she wasn't present at Colhoff's shooting. She earlier pleaded guilty to a drug offense under a plea deal.

Colhoff’s shooting happened while Villanueva was on supervised release on a federal drug charge, according to Villanueva’s order of detention after he was arrested in Colorado on Nov. 21.

The document says he has five felony convictions, including attempted second-degree assault and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine.