300 block of East Adams Street

Police crime scene investigators work outside a home in the 300 block of East Adams Street where one man was found dead and two others injured in the early morning of Jan. 1.

File photo

A Rapid City man who admitted fatally stabbing another man with a bayonet on New Year’s Day was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.

Joseph Rich, 27, earlier pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the death of Juan Legarda Jr., 21. Rich received the maximum prison time for the crime, which Pennington County prosecutors recommended to the Seventh Circuit Court.

The prosecuting attorney, Wayne Venhuizen, said Legarda’s killing was completely avoidable.

Rich’s brother, Jesse Gonzales, was involved in a “one-on-one fistfight” outside Rich’s home until the defendant got involved, Venhuizen said. Rich grabbed a rifle fitted with a bayonet, went out on the street, fatally stabbed Legarda and injured two other men, he said.

Legarda was stabbed five times, Venhuizen said, with the deadly thrust piercing his lung and aorta. Law enforcement found his body on the street in the 300 block of East Adams Street in the early hours of Jan. 1.

“Why did you have to take my son?” Christine Legarda Randall, the victim’s mother, asked Rich from the stand Monday afternoon. She spoke of him as a loving son, caring man and proud father to a now 8-month-old baby girl. “He didn’t deserve that.”

The defense lawyer, Eric Whitcher, told Judge Jane Wipf Pfeifle that the trouble arrived at Rich’s doorstep; he didn’t go out looking for it.

Rich, his young daughter and girlfriend were then inside their home when “Rich was startled by a noise outside and looked to see his brother involved in an altercation with three very large men in the front yard,” Whitcher said in a letter to the court.

“Fearing for the safety of his home and his family, Mr. Rich grabbed an early 1900s-model rifle, which was equipped with a bayonet. Mr. Rich usually kept the weapon near the front door of his home for protection.”

Whitcher said the three men had been drinking and spray painting commercial property in the northeastern Rapid City neighborhood.

The defense lawyer — and a dozen people who testified in support of Rich — said his actions that day were contrary to his nature as a compassionate and responsible person. They emphasized how Rich has walked away from his past as a juvenile offender, taken steady work as a carpenter and raised his daughter single-handedly.

“I’m sorry to the Legarda family for this whole mess, something I think about every day for the long six months,” Rich said when given a chance to speak. “This ain’t me. I’m a good dad. I’m a good person.”

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He joined his lawyer and family members in asking the court for a probationary sentence rather than prison time.

Before pronouncing Rich’s sentence, Wipf Pfeifle said sentencing was among a judge’s most difficult tasks.

She acknowledged the positive traits she had heard about Rich, saying “all of us are flawed individuals that have many good things about us.” But she wondered why he reacted to the altercation by reaching for a weapon instead of calling 911.

“It is the view of this court that you injected yourself into that situation,” Wipf Pfeifle said, adding that Rich had lied to authorities until he realized his story was not coinciding with those of other witnesses.

The judge said probation was not an appropriate punishment for Legarda’s death, and she feared Rich would again be involved in violence.

Rich will be eligible for parole after serving four years, Whitcher said. He was given credit for 190 days spent at the Pennington County Jail.

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Cops and Courts Reporter

Cops and courts reporter for the Rapid City Journal