Victoria Wicks

SDPB Freelance Reporter/Producer

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007. She has in the past been a newspaper reporter, and she spent about 14 years advocating for crime victims in Rapid City and Aberdeen. Vicky is also a creative writer; several of her short stories have been published, one of them in an anthology titled Fishing for Chickens: Short Stories about Rural Youth. In addition, Vicky is a visual artist, creating pottery, watercolors, oil and acrylic paintings, and photographs. She holds a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of South Dakota.

Victoria Wicks

Gubernatorial candidate Mike Meyers conducted a live demonstration of a shotgun suicide in Rapid City Wednesday, complete with a fake gun. Meyers did this to prove that former Director of Economic Development Richard Benda could not have committed suicide and to suggest that he was instead murdered. Victoria Wicks has this report.

Late last week the U.S. Department of Justice filed in support of plaintiffs in federal court in Rapid City. Two tribes and Native parents charge that Pennington County and state officials hold brief, meaningless hearings 48 hours after children are removed from their homes. The plaintiffs claim that those hearings violate the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, as well as due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. United States Attorney Brendan Johnson tells SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that DOJ often weighs in on cases with federal importance.

Victoria Wicks

The U.S. Department of Justice has joined a federal lawsuit in Rapid City. The suit alleges that 7th Circuit Court judges, the Pennington County State’s Attorney, and the state Department of Social Services remove children for as long as 60 days without giving Indian tribes and parents a fair hearing. Tribes from Rosebud and Pine Ridge reservations, along with parents, say the defendants are violating the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA.

Victoria Wicks

Hank Harris is a well-known South Dakota musician and a not-so-well-known photographer. This Friday, both talents are highlighted in concert at Rapid City’s Journey Museum. Harris will play music while his photos are projected onto a large screen. He tells SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that this is his first time combining his music with his photography.

Hank Harris's concert starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, August 15th, at the Journey Museum. Admission is $10 for adults.

Victoria Wicks

Matthew Tornquist was sentenced Tuesday in Hot Springs for killing his mother, Catherine Tornquist, in October 2011. Life and death are the only two sentences available for first-degree murder in this state. Tornquist did not face the death penalty, and so life in prison without parole was the judge’s only option. After the sentence was delivered, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks reviewed the case with prosecutors and an investigator.

Candidates don’t just rely on yard signs and TV ads to reach voters these days. They find a host of options for advertising. But judicial candidates follow a more stringent set of rules than those running for other offices. An advisory committee stands ready to answer questions for judicial candidates, as it did recently when it determined that people running for the bench can advertise in movie theaters.

Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that law officers must obtain warrants before drawing blood in routine DUI arrests. Now the South Dakota Supreme Court is dealing with that ruling. In a recent opinion, the state’s high court says the decision in Missouri versus McNeely does not apply retroactively.

Victoria Wicks

The journey to modern medicine has followed a rough road. At one time, people who did not receive health care had a better prognosis than those who did. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks looks at an exhibit at Rapid City’s Journey Museum that features some of the tools and practitioners involved with medicine in the Black Hills.
 The History of Medicine is exhibited at the Journey Museum in Rapid City through July 27th.

In opening statements at the beginning of the week, one of Matthew Tornquist’s attorneys said the defendant has no obligation to prove himself not guilty, and the defense can be accomplished with effective cross-examination of the state’s witnesses. That cross-examination strategy came into play Thursday, when DCI Special Supervisory Investigator Pat West answered defense questions about flaws in the investigation. Tornquist is standing trial in Rapid City for the murder of his mother, who disappeared almost three years ago. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks has this report.

The exacting and sometimes tedious process of introducing exhibits took up much of Wednesday in the Matthew Tornquist murder trial in Rapid City. The 28-year-old defendant is accused of killing his mother, Catherine Tornquist, in her Hot Springs home almost three years ago. Her body has never been recovered, and so prosecutors rely on other physical evidence and witnesses to make their case. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks is covering this trial.

Testimony in the trial of a Hot Springs man accused of killing his mother started Tuesday in a Rapid City courtroom, after prosecution and defense lawyers made opening statements. Twenty-eight-year-old Matthew Charles Tornquist is charged with grand theft and first degree murder, or in the alternative, second degree murder. If convicted of one of the murder charges, he’ll spend life in prison without parole. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks is covering this case.

Victoria Wicks SDPB

The popular television drama Criminal Minds follows a team of FBI behavioral analysts from Quantico, Virginia as they assist in criminal investigations. Greg Vecchi was a member of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit. He left Virginia for a job with the FBI in Rapid City before retiring earlier this year.

The Keystone XL pipeline was not built within four years of its South Dakota siting permit, so now TransCanada has to certify that the project still meets all conditions. The state’s Public Utilities Commission issued a permit for the pipeline on June 29, 2010. But the PUC chairman tells SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that right now, all eyes are on Nebraska.

Victoria Wicks

A retired FBI hostage negotiator has opened a multi-tiered gun business that offers, among other things, a bar called Bullets and Beer. It’s housed in a large one-story stucco building on Deadwood’s Lee Street. Contrary to what the business name suggests, those who have consumed beer can’t use real bullets, but they can zap zombies, gunfighters, and mobsters with laser guns. Proprietor Greg Vecchi tells SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that skills he learned as a profiler help him run his business.

Victoria Wicks

Photographs by a Rapid City writer and artist are on exhibit at the Sioux Indian Museum. V.R. Janis says her macro photography isn’t intended to be abstract as much as it calls attention to the fine details and composition of objects. Janis tells SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that her art and her writing are designed to revitalize indigenous traditions.
The photography of V.R. Janis is on exhibit at the Sioux Indian Museum through August 10th.

Victoria Wicks

South Dakota State University Extension is working with educators to teach them how to integrate science and math with food studies. Teachers from schools, preschools, and youth organizations met in Rapid City this week with SDSU staff. The same classes are scheduled for Sioux Falls next month. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks reports on this assistance for schools that have, or want to have, their own gardens.
Sioux Falls classes are scheduled for July 9th and 10th at the Sioux Falls Regional Extension Center at 2001 East 8th Street. University and Continuing Education Credits are available.

Victoria Wicks

Rapid City Public Library Director Jim McShane interviewed for his job at the beginning of October, when a vicious blizzard tied up the city for a week and left him stranded at the Minneapolis airport for days. In spite of that, he accepted the position, and now it’s summer time and he’s all settled in. When SDPB’s Victoria Wicks interviewed McShane, she found a placid, intellectual man whose varied interests appropriately reflect what a library has to offer.

Victoria Wicks

A local historian says the Ku Klux Klan had a significant presence in the Black Hills up until the Great Depression. Charles Rambow found out that his grandparents were members, and that discovery led him to track down the history of the KKK and give public presentations about it. As Rambow tells SDPB’s Victoria Wicks, KKK membership in the Hills has died out, but occasionally there’s evidence that the Klan is still watching.

South Dakota law requires drivers to consent to having their blood drawn without a search warrant. If they refuse, officers can draw blood by force. In April, the United States Supreme Court ruled in McNeely that officers have to attempt to get a warrant before drawing blood. On Wednesday, the state Supreme Court heard arguments from the Attorney General’s office, contending that drivers waive their Fourth Amendment rights, and a defense attorney who says drivers have the right to withdraw consent.

Online photo

Fundraising for restoration of the McGillycuddy House in Rapid City has received a notable boost. Valentine T. McGillycuddy became known as a Renaissance man of the Old West. Now nationally-known watercolorist Jon Crane has donated a painting of the house, along with 300 prints and 30 artist’s proofs, with proceeds to go toward restoration. This weekend SDPB’s Victoria Wicks spoke with Jon Crane and with McGillycuddy’s grandson at a fundraiser where the painting was auctioned off.

Victoria Wicks

A lesbian couple married in Minnesota at the end of April now has a reason to sue the State of South Dakota. On Thursday, May 8, the women attempted to change their names on their drivers licenses but were turned down. Same-sex marriages are not recognized under South Dakota law and the state’s constitution. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks accompanied the couple to the driver’s license station outside Rapid City.

Courtesy photo

South Dakota has weighed in on a New York lawsuit, challenging the state’s ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Court documents indicate New York enacted the ban in part to deter mass murders such as the shooting of school children and personnel at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. But Attorney General Marty Jackley tells SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that a ban in New York legalizes a ban in South Dakota, and violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

Prayers before public meetings do not violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, according to a U.S. Supreme Court decision issued Monday, May 5. Five justices agree that the primarily Christian prayers offered before city meetings in Greece, New York, do not establish a preferred religion if they are not conducted in a coercive manner. Justices also cite a long tradition of prayers before public meetings.

A federal judge in Rapid City has ruled that court reporters for four state circuit judges must produce hearing transcripts. The ruling filed Thursday resolves a standoff between state and federal authority in an ongoing lawsuit. Three Native parents and two tribes say state court, the Department of Social Services, and the Pennington County state’s attorney routinely violate the Indian Child Welfare Act and the 14th Amendment. They say judges conduct insufficient hearings after children are removed from their homes.

Victoria Wicks

An unlikely friendship developed over three decades when a New York filmmaker traveled to Porcupine, South Dakota, to document the life of rancher Vernon Sager. That partnership resulted in the 2005 documentary The Last Cowboy, shown on PBS. Last week, the rancher and the filmmaker shared the film with audiences in the Black Hills and shared stories with SDPB’s Victoria Wicks.

Victoria Wicks

The oil boom in North Dakota has changed that state’s demographics and economy, especially on the western side. The additional income is welcome to business owners and the government. But the huge influx of people and machines comes with a price. At the 9th annual New Horizons Oil and Gas Conference hosted by South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks learned more about the socioeconomic realities of a boom.

Victoria Wicks

On Earth Day, members of environmental groups came together to call for cleanup of thousands of abandoned uranium mines in South Dakota and other locations, most of them in Western states. Charmaine White Face of Defenders of the Black Hills headed up this effort and chose the Cheyenne River as a meeting place. She says it’s one of several contaminated areas in the state. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks traveled to find the environmentalists about 20 miles east of Hermosa on Highway 40.

Thirty years ago, the federal Victims of Crime Act was signed into law, giving crime victims certain rights. The act also established grant money for programs that help victims through the criminal justice system and to offset victims’ expenses such as medical and therapeutic treatments. Thursday in Rapid City, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks spoke with representatives of criminal justice and community agencies who came together to observe National Crime Victims Rights Week.

New powers granted to the Rapid City Human Relations Commission take effect at the end of this week. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks learns that the commission now has the ability to enforce sanctions and subpoena witnesses and records.

Four judges in Rapid City say a federal judge went too far in requiring them to sign orders to produce transcripts. Their response, filed this weekend in federal court in Rapid City, is the most recent action in an ongoing lawsuit claiming violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the 14th Amendment in Pennington County.

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