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Jury selection begins in Hirth trial; Final case in 8-year legal saga

Law and justice concept - Themis statue, judge hammer and books. Courtroom.
NiseriN/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Law and justice concept - Themis statue, judge hammer and books. Courtroom.

Jury selection has begun for the upcoming trial of Richard Hirth for his alleged role in a death dating back to 2015.

Hirth, 42, is accused playing a role in the fatal stabbing of Jessica Rehfeld eight years ago. Hirth faces another accusation of being hired by Jonathan Klinetobe, Rehfeld’s former partner, to commit the act.

After suspected conspirators stabbed Rehfeld to death on May 18, 2015, her body was buried on Forest Service land near Rockerville in Pennington County, before being moved to a second, deeper gravesite weeks later.

Klinetobe, who pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and received the maximum sentence of life without parole, allegedly convinced Hirth and David Schneider the Hell’s Angels had placed an $80,000 bounty on Rehfeld’s life.

Prosecutors said in reality, Klinetobe planned the hit after Rehfeld left him and served with a protection order.

After the conviction and appeals process, the South Dakota Supreme Court unanimously upheld Klinetobe’s life sentence in 2021, citing his role as the leader of the plot and efforts to obstruct justice in their decision.

For his role in Rehfeld’s death, Schneider pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting first-degree manslaughter and received a 75-year sentence. He will be eligible for parole in 2055.

Two others, Michael Frye and Garland Brown, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact and received five years each.

Hirth is accused of stabbing Rehfeld. His trial has been held up due to questions of his competency. He has pleaded not guilty.

The trial, in front of Judge Heidi Linngren, is scheduled to run through Oct. 20. Jury selection runs through this week.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture