The Hermosa town marshal still remembers helping a woman afraid of her ex-boyfriend on a September 2017 evening, only to return the next morning to find that she'd been kidnapped and raped.
"She had grass and hay in her hair, she had been crying, her face was — I could just tell by her expression and everything that she had been assaulted," Jim Daggett said last week while sitting next to Bandit, his German shepherd. "I can't imagine what that poor lady went through."
Daggett said he testified during the trial against Harry David Evans, who was convicted of kidnapping, rape and other crimes by a Custer County jury. A judge sentenced Evans to life plus 92 years in prison earlier this year.
Daggett said the trial showed that Evans broke into the woman's home, restrained her with duct tape and dragged her outside and into his vehicle before assaulting and raping her at another site. He said deputies later found a shovel and pick, which probably meant Evans had originally planned to kill and bury her. Custer County State’s Attorney Tracy Kelley previously made a similar comment to the Journal and noted that he had a gun and knife on him.
The woman is now suing Custer County for $2 million, saying the sheriff's office didn't respond to her calls for help. The Journal does not name sexual assault survivors without their permission, and the woman did not respond to Facebook and phone messages.
Daggett said the woman called him on Sept. 5, 2017, and told him that Evans sent her a threatening message on Facebook and asked if he could stop by her home in rural Custer County. He said he told her she needs to call the Custer County Sheriff's Office because she lives outside of his jurisdiction, which covers Hermosa and a five-mile radius surrounding the town.
He said the woman said she already called the sheriff's office, but they put her on hold and weren't sending anyone. He agreed to help even after receiving a phone call from Custer County dispatch telling him she was outside of his jurisdiction and deputies were already helping her, according to a recording of the phone call obtained through a public records request to the sheriff's office.
"I went anyhow," he said. "I'm from the old school. I don't really have jurisdiction lines. Somebody calls and they said they need help, I'm going to go."
Daggett said he also agreed to show up because he was aware of Evans' criminal history and could tell the woman was truly afraid.
"The whole thing kept escalating" with the woman even after she received a protection order against Evans, Daggett said. "I could tell just the way she acted that she was scared for her life."
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Once he arrived with Bandit, Daggett said, the woman showed him the Facebook messages she received from Evans. Daggett says he can't remember exactly what they said but they implied he was going to hurt her. He searched the woman's property with a flashlight, drove around the area, and then parked outside her driveway.
After 30 minutes, Daggett said, he told the woman he would leave and come back to check on her in the morning.
"Of course, when I did, that's when I found her," he said.
Daggett said he told the woman she needed to report what happened to the sheriff's office, but she initially didn't want to.
"This is the only way we're going to stop this is if we get the guy and follow through on charges," he remembered telling her.
Daggett, who said he's worked in law enforcement since 1970, said it's important for law enforcement to take threatening messages seriously. He pointed out that Evans could have been arrested for sending the threatening message since it broke his protection order.
Law enforcement should check in on anyone who calls for help — even if they drop the call or say they don't want help — to make sure they aren't being held hostage, Daggett also said.
Daggett previously served as sheriff of Oglala Lakota and Custer counties and last year ran against Custer County Sheriff Marty Mechaley, one of the defendants in the lawsuit.
Rebecca Mann, attorney for the defendants, said she doesn't comment on open lawsuits.