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.

Photo by Victoria Wicks

Basic needs—food, shelter, and clothing—become even more expensive for low-income people as winter approaches. Western South Dakota Community Action Program, headquartered in Rapid City, assists with those needs in most counties and all reservations west of the Missouri River. The program helps people to winterize their homes, offers clothing at its thrift store, and supplies toiletries that food stamps don’t cover. For the past three years, Community Action has worked to get fresh produce onto the tables of the poor, and now they’re helping people preserve that produce for the winter.

A small Rapid City audience heard from a panel of scientists Monday night after watching a documentary on climate change activism. The film, Disruption, pushes for take-it-to-the-streets protest and drummed up advance interest in the global People’s Climate March that happened September 21st. But scientists tell SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that effective solutions have to be more concrete.

Photo by Victoria Wicks

South Dakota is celebrating 125 years of statehood. SDPB honors that milestone with stories that explore the state’s identity and heritage.
A hundred years ago, Custer State Park acquired its first bison from the Scotty Philip ranch near Fort Pierre. This started the reintroduction of bison into the park. Now about thirteen hundred animals are rounded up every year. As SDPB’s Victoria Wicks learns, there are people from two worlds at this event, the onlookers and the participants, and for the riders, this roundup is the real deal.

Photo by Victoria Wicks

On a recent Thursday evening, a few School of Mines and Technology students gather in a downtown Rapid City parking lot to demonstrate the relationship between art and science. As SDPB’s Victoria Wicks reports, if creative geniuses pay attention to aesthetics as well as facts and numbers, there’s an indivisible relationship between form and function.

Victoria Wicks

Volunteers gathered on Saturday to install playground equipment and landscaping in Willow Park in North Rapid. One playground installment is an interactive sculpture, titled “Will Be,” built in 2013 by former Rapid City resident and Los Angeles artist Bridget Beck. Beck enlisted help from Rapid City kids to create the sculpture, and after she displayed it at UCLA for a year, she brought it back home.

South Dakota voters will decided two initiated measures on November’s ballot. Initiated Measure 17 allows medical doctors, clinics, and specialty hospitals to become part of insurance networks that they currently can’t join. Initiated Measure 18 raises the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour. Those are the bare bones of the measures at issue. But there’s nothing uncomplicated about the variables or possible outcomes if these measures pass. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks takes a look at the economics and the more subjective aspects of these two initiated measures.

A prison inmate serving life who was a juvenile when she committed murder in 1998 received a lighter sentence YESTERDAY/TUESDAY in Codington County. Jessi Owens, formerly of Watertown and now residing in the state women’s prison in Pierre, has been re-sentenced to a term of 40 years.

Victoria Wicks

Women’s Equality Day is held annually on August 26th. That’s the anniversary of the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment, recognizing women’s right to vote. Fifty years later, women staged demonstrations to demand equality in education and employment. At the beginning of the 21st Century, women in Rapid City’s Democracy in Action started observing Women’s Equality Day, as they did Tuesday night at Main Street Square.

Photo by Victoria Wicks

A proposed sculpture garden in Rapid City is moving forward. The First Nations Sculpture Garden, featuring busts of 20th Century Native intellectuals, is planned for Halley Park, a strip of land in the Gap between east and west Rapid.

Now that the state Supreme Court has determined South Dakota’s implied consent law to be unconstitutional, the criminal justice system and the state legislature have to regroup. The Attorney General says new processes could cost money, and the legislature might have to find ways to bolster public safety. But the attorney who prevailed in the case tells SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that protection of constitutional rights justifies the “new normal.”

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.

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