James Ladeaux Sr.

James Ladeaux Sr.

A Rapid City man pleaded not guilty Monday to a lowered charge of second-degree murder. 

James Ladeaux Sr. was originally charged by complaint with first-degree murder while trying to rob his brother Fredrick, a crime that carries a punishment of either life in prison or the death penalty. But he was indicted last month on the lesser crime of second-degree murder, which can only be punished with life in prison, not the death penalty. 

Ladeaux, 54, also pleaded not guilty at the state court in Rapid City to two charges of aggravated assault against law enforcement officers for allegedly threatening them with a knife. Each aggravated assault charge carries a maximum 25-year prison sentence. However, the maximum punishment can increase to 50 years if he's found to be a habitual offender for being convicted in 2012 of assaulting a federal officer.

There is no known motive for the alleged murder since the probable cause affidavit is sealed and prosecutors have not discussed any details in court. 

Matthew Skinner, Ladeaux's defense lawyer, told the Journal that the case is "not a slam dunk case" for the prosecution. He said he has yet to decide whether his client will argue self defense.

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Family members of James and Fredrick Ladeaux declined to speak after the arraignment, and a message to the Pennington County State's Attorney Office was not immediately returned. 

Police found 53-year-old Fredrick Ladeaux unconscious and bleeding in the alley between Main Street and Saint Joseph Street near the intersection with East Boulevard around 11:10 p.m. on March 18, according to a news release from the Rapid City Police Department at the time.

The responding officer immediately began CPR on Fredrick, but James got in the officer's way, the release says. James then took out a knife and began waving it when a second officer arrived and tried to separate the officer from Fredrick. Police used a stun gun on James and detained him after he refused to drop the knife. Medical units arrived to continue CPR on Fredrick, who died at the scene.

Ladeaux is expected to return to court for a status hearing at 9:30 a.m. on June 24. 

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

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