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Hirth trial cancelled after key defense witness compromised


The trial for a man accused in a Black Hills murder-for-hire case has been cancelled.

Richard Hirth is accused in killing Jessica Rehfeld in 2015.

According to the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office, the state learned the defense’s expert witness had been compromised.

The witness, Dr. William Stratford, entered a civil settlement agreement with the federal government after an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency. The DEA alleges Stratford violated the Controlled Substances Act.

Hirth's attorney asked the Judge to bar the state from asking questions about the DEA's investigation or settlement. The request was denied, and Stratford indicated he would refuse to testify.

Seventh Circuit Court Judge Heidi Linngren ruled that Stratford is no longer a credible witness. Without this key witness, Hirth’s right to a fair trial is compromised and therefore cancelled.

The Pennington County State’s Attorney’s office said it will continue to work ensure justice is ultimately served.

Prosecutors say Hirth was hired by Jonathan Klinetobe to kill Rehfield. Klinetobe was Rehfeld’s former partner. He, along with several other suspects in the case, has already been tried and convicted.

Ryan is the local host of "Morning Edition". Originally from Iowa, he first came to the Black Hills to study at SD Mines. After graduating in 2019, he was an educator in Arizona and North Dakota before returning to the Black Hills.
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