South Dakota man acquitted in girlfriend's death
Sep. 14, 2017
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota man has been acquitted in the death of his girlfriend.
Brian Duncan was acquitted Wednesday after spending 14 months in jail. He had been charged with second-degree murder in the 2015 death of his girlfriend Helen Wright, the Rapid City Journal reported .
Police said Wright was found dead at a Rapid City motel, where she lived with Duncan.
Dr. Donald Habbe, a Rapid City pathologist who conducted an autopsy on Wright, ruled she died of strangulation due to hemorrhaging in her neck.
But Dr. Leon Kelly, a Colorado-based pathologist who reviewed the case for the defense, testified Wright died of pneumonia and that the hemorrhaging was a sign of decomposition.
Kelly said medical records revealed Wright apparently suffered from various illnesses, including a heart disease. Habbe said he didn't review such records.
Duncan testified that Wright died in their motel room while he was performing first aid on her. He admitted to leaving town after she died without informing anyone.
Duncan's defense attorneys, Conor Duffy and Jeff Fransen, expressed relief after the verdict.
"Representing an innocent man is a huge responsibility and pretty scary," Duffy said. "I'm relieved."
The prosecution declined to provide comment to the newspaper.
"Domestic violence is often extremely challenging to investigate and I would imagine to prosecute," said Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris, whose department led the investigation. "It's even more difficult when a death is involved and a victim can't speak for herself."
Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com