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SD High Court denies Toavs appeal of 210-year sentence in double killing in Faith

December 30, 2017 GMT

The circuit judge acted within his authority when he imposed consecutive sentences of 110 years and 100 years for the double killings committed at Faith in 2016, the South Dakota Supreme Court said in a decision released Thursday.

Attorney Paul Eisenbraun of Rapid City had argued Circuit Judge Jerome Eckrich didn’t adequately consider whether Berton Toavs was capable of rehabilitation before sentencing him to a total of 210 years.

In a deal after first being charged with two counts of first-degree murder, Toavs pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughters for shooting former girlfriend Eliza Edgins and his friend Nathan Gann with his Colt .45 caliber revolver.

Gann lived with Toavs and had started a relationship with Edgins.

Retired Justice Lori Wilbur wrote the court’s unanimous opinion. She said Judge Eckrich could have imposed life sentences.

Instead, Justice Wilbur wrote, the judge “did consider Toavs’s presentence investigation report and allowed Toavs to comment on this report prior to sentencing.

“Toavs’s counsel also commented on Toavs’s capacity for rehabilitation in support of a more lenient sentence and a sentence from which Toavs would be eligible for parole,” she continued.

Wilbur went on: “The sentencing court listened to testimony regarding the support Toavs would have if he were to be rehabilitated and released on parole.

“Finally,” Wilbur concluded, “the sentence itself reflects the sentencing court had rehabilitation in mind when fashioning an appropriate sentence.”