A former Lawrence County corrections officer received a lighter sentence than an inmate after the pair, who were romantically involved, hatched an escape plan involving a fake suicide attempt last year. 

Koreena Schultes, the former guard, and Tyler Statler, the inmate, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a first-degree prisoner escape, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. They were sentenced by Michelle Comer, a judge at the state courthouse in Deadwood. 

Schultes provided Statler with a handcuff key in August 2018, just two months after she began her part-time position, according to police reports from the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at the South Dakota Attorney General's Office.

Schultes, of Spearfish, was sentenced earlier this month to four years in prison with all four years suspended, which means she won't have to serve any time in prison if she follows the conditions of her probation that includes completing substance abuse and moral reconation therapy. She will also have to spend 20 days in the same jail she worked at.

Statler, also of Spearfish, was sentenced in December to five years in prison. He was given the same punishment in separate methamphetamine ingestion and possession cases and will serve all three sentences at the same time. 

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The escape plan came to light after an inmate reported that Statler received a key from a guard and planned to fake a suicide attempt and escape while being transported to Yankton, where the state mental health hospital is located, according to police reports. Jail staff found a key hidden in Statler's cell and the sheriff's office then handed the case over to DCI. A DCI agent interviewed Schultes, who admitted her role and explained the plan. 

Schultes told the agent that after Statler asked her to bring him a handcuff key, she bought one from Amazon and delivered it to him in a letter. Statler told her he would swallow the key and escape after being transferred to Yankton. She said she thinks he planned to get to Yankton by making a suicide attempt. 

She told the agent that another inmate also asked for a key, but she only helped Statler since she was in a relationship with him. The agent found sexual messages between Schultes and Statler on the inmate messaging system, and Schultes admitted the two planned to start a relationship once Statler was released from jail. In one of the messages Statler asks Schultes to bring him "that one thing," which Schultes confirmed was the key. 

Statler declined to be interviewed by the DCI agent, the police reports say. 

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— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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