A judge set bond Thursday at $250,000 cash only for a suspect who is accused of fatally beating a man with a walking stick, fists and feet Tuesday at a Rapid City motel.
Authorities say the suspect in the killing said he "snapped" in anger and used the walking stick to violently beat the victim, then used his fists and feet to deliver the fatal blows as the victim was crawling on the ground.
The jailed suspect is Clifford Leigh Gilbert, who turns 34 today and is listed as having an unknown address in Rapid City. His name in court documents is transposed from earlier police reports that identified him as Gilbert Clifford, which is a name that the court documents describe as an alias.
Gilbert is accused of fatally beating 61-year-old Robert Laverne Smith in the Stardust Motel at 520 E. North St., and public court documents include a police affidavit that says Gilbert confessed.
“The defendant indicated that he was angry during this event and that he had ‘snapped,’” says the affidavit, which was written by a detective.
The affidavit says Gilbert and a female were in a motel room with Smith when Smith struck Gilbert twice with a walking stick. Gilbert then reportedly took the stick and struck Smith’s head about five times with it.
Smith then crawled toward the door and uttered a racial epithet toward Gilbert, according to the account Gilbert gave the detectives. The affidavit does not list the race of Smith or Gilbert.
At that point, the affidavit says, Gilbert punched Smith approximately 10 times and kicked Smith 10 times “about the head area.” Gilbert told the detectives that the female “also participated in assaulting Mr. Smith during this event,” the affidavit says, but she invoked her right to speak with an attorney and had not been interviewed when the affidavit was filed Wednesday.
The Rapid City Police Department said Thursday that Gilbert is the only person who has been arrested in connection with the case; officials declined to comment on the female mentioned in the affidavit.
Gilbert attended his first court appearance Thursday morning from the Pennington County Jail. He stood in front of a camera in orange and white striped jail clothes and communicated through a live video feed with prosecutors and Judge Todd Hyronimus, who were in a courtroom at the Pennington County Courthouse.
Gilbert’s eyes were downcast and his voice was quiet as he spoke only to affirm that he understood the charges and potential punishments that were read aloud by the judge.
Gilbert is charged with alternate counts of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, which means he faces the possibility of conviction for one or the other charge but not both. He would face a mandatory lifetime prison sentence if convicted of second-degree murder, and up to a maximum of life in prison if convicted of first-degree manslaughter, while a fine of up to $50,000 could be additionally imposed for a conviction on either charge.
Judge Hyronimus’ decision to set bail at $250,000 aligned with a request from Deputy Pennington County State’s Attorney Adam Shiffermiller, who said Gilbert has a lengthy criminal history that includes alcohol-related crimes, disorderly conduct, protection orders and assault.
Gilbert’s Tuesday arrest came after a 2:55 a.m. dispatch of officers in response to a 911 call. The caller reported seeing Smith's body lying on the ground and covered in blood.
The police found Smith in a room at the motel and sent him to Rapid City Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy provisionally reported the cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head area.
The affidavit in the court file says that eight people, including Gilbert, were “processed for evidence” pursuant to a search warrant. According to the affidavit, Gilbert had injuries to his mouth and right hand and a “significant amount of blood” on his clothing.