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Rapid City murder suspect arrested in Box Elder; another remains missing
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Rapid City murder suspect arrested in Box Elder; another remains missing

Travis Nelson.jpg

Travis Nelson

A man charged with murder in a fatal Rapid City shooting earlier this month was arrested Thursday. Now, only one of the four suspects remains at large.

A police dog found Travis Nelson hiding in a culvert in Box Elder on Thursday afternoon, according to police spokesman Brendyn Medina.

Nelson evaded police for 20 days after he, Tracy Laughlin, William Long and Gilbert Reyna allegedly killed Jesus Vance on April 9.

All of the defendants are charged with the first-degree murder of Vance, a 20-year-old from Rapid City who was found shot dead inside a room at the South Dakota Rose Inn on East Boulevard North.


Jesus Vance stands in front of the Louvre Museum in Paris in this photo posted to his obituary page.

Laughlin has yet to be apprehended but all will face the death penalty or life in prison without the chance of parole if convicted.

There have been social media posts about Laughlin being found dead, but the Rapid City Police Department has no proof of that, Medina said.

Tracy Laughlin.jpg

Tracy Laughlin

Nelson was located and arrested with the help of investigators, the police dog and multiple law enforcement agencies, he said.

“Information developed in the investigation into this case led us to an area in Box Elder where he was spotted" in the area of 151st Avenue, Medina said.

He said the Rapid City and Box Elder police departments, Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and Highway Patrol responded by forming a perimeter around the area on Thursday afternoon.

The police dog found Nelson in a culvert on Bennington Drive and police arrested him without incident, Medina said.

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Nelson was then booked into the Pennington County Jail at 5:49 p.m, according to the jail website. He is scheduled for an initial court appearance at 10 a.m. on Monday.

All four of the suspects are also charged with aggravated assault and second-degree kidnapping against Jake Williams.

They allegedly used a "cutting instrument" against Williams, a 37-year-old from Rapid City who was found outside the motel after the shooting with cuts to his face that required staples to heal, according to police reports.

Second-degree kidnapping involves holding or retaining a person as a ransom or reward, to use them as a shield or hostage, to facilitate a felony or flight from one, or to inflict injury or terrorize them. It contrasts to first-degree kidnapping which involves first unlawfully moving someone and/or holding them in a place for a long period of time.

Williams was also allegedly found with methamphetamine, a gun holster and magazine.

He is charged in state court with meth possession and in federal court with illegally possessing ammunition on the day of the shooting.

Williams was found with 9mm rounds of ammunition, which he isn’t allowed to have since he’s been convicted of a felony, according to his indictment. 

Witness interviews led police to believe there is a “drug distributing component” to the shooting, Medina previously said. Police also believe Vance and others involved in the shooting knew each other.

It’s unclear how the alleged kidnapping and assault of Williams are related to the shooting of Vance and what preceded both incidents. Most police reports are sealed and police and prosecutors are declining to comment due to the ongoing investigation.

The homicide suspects were identified after detectives found surveillance footage that showed two vehicles leaving the scene shortly after the April 9 shooting.

Officers found both cars that evening and detained everyone inside of them for questioning before arresting Williams, Reyna and Long.

They also charged Laughlin and Nelson, who were seen on surveillance footage running into the vehicles that fled the motel but escaped before officers pulled the cars over, Medina said.

Vance, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, had lived in Rapid City, Takini on the Cheyenne River Reservation and in Germany. ​

— Contact Arielle Zionts at

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