A father and son from Martin who pleaded guilty to killing a 33-year-old man in 2016 will spend the rest of their lives in prison without the chance of parole.
Daniel Ceplecha, 58, and Rangler Ceplecha, 24, were sentenced Nov. 30 by Judge Bobbi Rank of South Dakota's 6th Circuit Court. They had previously pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter for the killing of Moses Red Bear, who was found shot dead and burned in Bennett County on Nov. 12, 2016.
The pair must also pay $14,933.23 in restitution for costs, including Red Bear's funeral and his sister's travel expenses. In addition, Rangler owes $2,345.48 in investigator fees, and $7,100 for a psychiatric evaluation. His father owes $3,563.18 in investigator fees.
In May 2018, Daniel and Rangler wrote to Judge Rank asking for new lawyers and to rescind their guilty pleas, court records show. "We were forced to make (our) pleas" and "we are not guilty of the charges," they wrote, adding that they've been "horribly misrepresented."
But in June, the judge denied their request for new lawyers, and in September, she rejected their request to rescind their pleas, according to court records.
After he was arrested on Nov. 12, 2016, Daniel told investigators he and Red Bear got into an argument the night before, while he and Rangler were drinking at home, according to a probable cause affidavit signed by police. Red Bear had been staying at their house for a few weeks, and Daniel asked him to leave, believing Red Bear had stolen money, a knife and a flashlight.
Red Bear left but came back, the affidavit says. The argument escalated and Daniel punched Red Bear in the nose, drawing blood. Daniel said he blacked out and doesn’t remember what happened next. Rangler refused to speak with police.
The Martin Police Department learned of the shooting and the Ceplechas' involvement in the early hours of Nov. 12 when a man reported that he witnessed the shooting and was forced to help clean up the scene, the affidavit says.
Several hours later, firefighters discovered Red Bear’s body while extinguishing a roadside grass fire in western Bennett County, according to the affidavit. He appeared to have been shot in the head, torso and hand, and was burnt by the fire.
Police found bleach outside the Ceplechas' house, a gun on Daniel, and another gun and blood in his car, the affidavit says.
Daniel and Rangler Ceplecha were originally facing more serious charges: alternate counts of first-degree murder and second-degree murder, as well as conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.