Items believed to have been owned by a murdered Rapid City woman were found in an apartment where the alleged mastermind in the killing had stayed, the court heard Wednesday.
A necklace, purse and cellphone believed to have belonged to Jessica Rehfeld were among the items police seized from the Sturgis apartment in May 2016, two days after law enforcement unearthed the body of the 22-year-old woman who had been missing for a year.
Jonathon Klinetobe, 27, Rehfeld's former boyfriend who is accused of plotting her kidnapping and killing, had been staying at the apartment with his then-girlfriend.
Klinetobe is facing multiple felony charges, including first-degree murder, for which the state is seeking the death penalty. The Rapid City man accused of fatally stabbing Rehfeld, Richard Hirth, 36, is facing identical charges.
Another co-defendant, David Schneider, 25, has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, and is waiting to be sentenced to life in prison. Two other men, Michael Frye and Garland Brown, have pleaded guilty to helping rebury Rehfeld after her initial burial by Klinetobe, Hirth and Schneider.
At the Pennington County Courthouse on Wednesday, the public heard previously undisclosed details in the case during a daylong hearing related to the defense questioning the scope and probable cause for the search warrant.
Several Rapid City police detectives testified that the other defendants said Klinetobe specifically wanted to keep the necklace Rehfeld had been wearing at the time of her death.
The necklace was allegedly going to be used as "proof of death" for a bounty that the motorcycle gang Hells Angels had offered in exchange for Rehfeld's killing. This was apparently so she would not go to police with information against the gang.
The necklace "needed to be bloody," Detective Evan Harris quoted Hirth telling police the instructions he had received from Klinetobe.
Hirth had said the bounty on Rehfeld had been $500,000, whereas a woman Klinetobe had been living with in Rapid City at that time said it was $2,500 to $3,500.
The woman, Beverly Cheshier, whose name was brought up in court for the first time, had told police she had driven with Klinetobe to the burial site multiple times.
Detective Cade Bloomenrader, who wrote the search warrant application, told the court he doubted that the motorcycle gang had put a hit on Rehfeld.
“It just didn't add up," he said on the stand.
Bloomenrader believed Rehfeld's killing was related to her filing a report that Klinetobe had assaulted her, as well as her seeking a protection order against Klinetobe. In her application for a protection order less than a week before she disappeared in May 2015, Rehfeld said she feared for her life after Klinetobe threatened to kill her.
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Meanwhile, Frye had apparently told police Klinetobe wanted to kill Rehfeld “because she threatened to tell everybody that he beat the (expletive) out of her.”
Keeping Rehfeld’s necklace was equated to "owning a piece of her," a power and control dynamic that can be seen in cases of domestic violence, Bloomenrader said. He believed that Klinetobe would take such a “token” or “trophy” wherever he went, and after he had moved from Rapid City to Sturgis.
In interviews with police after Rehfeld's body had been discovered, Klinetobe claimed to still love her, yet he also admitted to leaving her a threatening voicemail.
Klinetobe had told police the killing was Frye's idea because Rehfeld chose Klinetobe over Frye.
The court also heard that the four men who allegedly assisted Klinetobe, as well as Cheshier, said they had not gotten paid.
Detective Jason LaHaie, who participated in the apartment search, said the necklace they found resembled the one Rehfeld was seen wearing in her Facebook photos. The necklace, he said, was discovered inside a “lock box” sitting on the kitchen table.
A silver purse, which matched Cheshier’s description of Rehfeld's purse, was found in a closet outside the bathroom. Inside the purse was a receipt for apartment rental payment made out to Rehfeld, as well as a Walmart nametag for "Jesca." Rehfeld was working at Walmart at the time she disappeared.
Schneider told police he saw Klinetobe take Rehfeld's purse. Cheshier said she saw the purse at the trailer she and Klinetobe had been sharing soon after Rehfeld was killed.
The apartment closet also held keys with a tag bearing Rehfeld's apartment number, as well as a box of gloves and bandannas, which police said the other defendants talked about using during the reburial.
In a safe in the master bedroom, detectives found hair ties, notes addressed to Rehfeld and a cellphone with its battery lying separately. Harris said this fit Hirth’s story about removing the battery from Rehfeld’s phone after her death.
Items found relevant to the murder investigation were taken because they could potentially hold traces of physical evidence connected to Rehfeld, the detectives said.
Klinetobe is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 15, but the court's decision on the warrant questions is not expected for another six months. Klinetobe is detained at the Pennington County Jail along with Hirth and Schneider.
Frye is free on bond while awaiting sentencing, whereas Brown was sentenced to prison in August and was released on parole last month.