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

The South Dakota League of Women Voters has led an eight-city tour during the month of October. Its purpose is to educate citizens about voter districts and how they are created. Rapid City was the last stop Thursday night.

Other presentations were held at Spearfish, Pierre, Aberdeen, Brookings, Yankton, Vermillion, and Sioux Falls.

State League president Caitlin Collier says the groups in each town have been diverse. She says Aberdeen's stop drew a very large crowd that included local politicians such as county commissioners and current and hopeful state legislators.

SDPB file photo by Kealey Bultena

We live on a planet whose surface is 71 percent water. But less than 3 percent is freshwater, and most of that is not available for human use.

On Saturday, Oct. 14, three engineers gave a public presentation in Rapid City. They call for conservation and preservation of the tiny percentage of Earth's water that is available.

One of the engineers is Mark Anderson, adjunct professor at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and former director of the U.S. Geological Survey's Dakota Water Science Center.

City of Rapid City

A Canadian company is looking for gold near Rochford in the Black Hills. Mineral Mountain Resources holds a temporary permit to use water from Rapid Creek for test drilling.

Environmentalists and tribes object to the operation, fearing it will pollute the creek and destroy the peaceful, remote area.

An engineer tells SDPB's Victoria Wicks that politicians have to decide how to enact protections.

SD Department of Corrections

A prison inmate serving 80 years for raping a four-year-old child is asking for a new trial. The South Dakota Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday, Oct. 3, from the attorney for Waylon Uhre, who was also convicted of 10 charges of sexual contact with minors and 20 counts involving child pornography. Uhre contends the judge erred by closing the courtroom when the rape victim testified. He also says investigators violated his right to an attorney.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

A Frederick man who sued his wife's lover for alienation of affection has asked the South Dakota Supreme Court to help him put a price on heartache. The high court heard the case on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

The appeal comes from a 2017 decision in the Fifth Circuit. There the trial judge said the humiliated husband had not given any testimony to support his request for financial compensation.

In his response to the appeal, the "other man" asked the Supreme Court to abolish South Dakota's alienation of affection law as a matter of public policy.

Attorney General Marty Jackley says convicted murderer Charles Rhines won't get a second chance with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rhines' case was heard by three judges who issued an opinion in August that he is not entitled to have his conviction overturned. Rhines then asked that all active judges in the Eighth Circuit reconsider that outcome.

Jackley says the Eighth Circuit has rejected that request, and Rhines can now appeal his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

SD Department of Corrections

The South Dakota Supreme Court heard arguments from death-row inmate Briley Piper on Monday, Oct. 1. Piper is represented by Sioux Falls attorney Ryan Kolbeck in his attempt to withdraw the guilty plea he entered in 2001. Piper was one of three murderers convicted of kidnapping, torturing, and killing 19-year-old Chester Poage in Spearfish Canyon in March 2000.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

Victoria Wicks

Drive south of Scenic on BIA Highway 27 and you'll find Thunder Valley. You won't have to look hard. After you've driven about half an hour through Pine Ridge's grasslands and hills, Thunder Valley stands out. You'll first notice a cluster of very tall houses, some finished, some not. Then you'll see a large apartment complex and community center, both still under construction, and a small red barn and administration building.

This is a model community, designed to show the possibilities when a group of dedicated people think beyond the conventional to make a good life.

SD Department of Corrections

Death-row inmate Briley Piper is once again going before the South Dakota Supreme Court. He continues to fight his death sentence and is trying again to withdraw the guilty plea he entered in 2001. Oral arguments are set for Monday, Oct. 1.

Piper was convicted of taking part in the kidnap, torture, and murder of 19-year-old Chester Poage, who died on March 13, 2000, in Spearfish Canyon.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

Victoria Wicks file photo

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that South Dakota officials violated the Indian Child Welfare Act. Now the ACLU attorney who represented the plaintiffs says he plans to ask the Eighth Circuit to reconsider, even though the state officials have made the changes to custody hearings that the plaintiffs were seeking.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

Victoria Wicks file photo

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul has overturned a Rapid City federal court's finding that South Dakota agencies systematically violated the Indian Child Welfare Act.

In March 2013, tribes and parents brought a class-action suit against the state Department of Social Services, Seventh Circuit Court, and the Pennington County State's Attorney.

Federal Judge Jeffrey Viken found for the plaintiffs in a partial summary judgment, but state officials successfully appealed his decision to the Eighth Circuit.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has more of this story.

Victoria Wicks

South Dakota is receiving more than $8 million from a California lawsuit against Volkswagen. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources is handling disbursements of the state's share of the settlement. Some of the money will land in Rapid City. In response, the Rapid City Standing Committee on Sustainability is now open to public comments on how it should be spent. SDPB's Victoria Wicks learned more at a public presentation held this weekend.

For more information from DENR, click here:

Native American Rights Fund

The Keystone XL pipeline is facing another federal lawsuit in Montana. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has joined with the Fort Belknap Indian Community to challenge the Trump administration's permit for the pipeline. The tribes say the Trump state department violated the Administrative Procedures Act as well as federal laws protecting environmental and historical sites. This suit joins two others filed in Montana, now consolidated, since the Trump administration approved he pipeline in March 2017. SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this story.

Victoria Wicks file photo

2018 is gearing up to be the Year of Women in United States politics. Record numbers of women are running for public office in national, state, and local races. Their zeal is credited, in part, to the women's marches held globally after the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the Me Too movement that has examined sexual harassment and sex discrimination under a bright light.

Victoria Wicks

South Dakota air quality has been affected this summer by wildfires in other states, particularly those to the west. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there were sixteen active large fires burning in Montana as of Tuesday, Aug. 29. There are also eight in California, eleven in Oregon, another eleven in Washington, thirteen in Idaho, nine in Colorado, and two in Wyoming. At times, the South Dakota sun is dim even in a cloudless sky. All that smoke can cause health problems, especially for vulnerable people. SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports.

An Oglala Lakota father claims his rights were violated when his child was placed in the guardianship of the mother's Caucasian relatives. At the time of the placement, the father was in jail, accused of killing the child's mother. His attorneys told South Dakota Supreme Court justices that even while incarcerated, the father was entitled to protections under the Indian Child Welfare Act and the U.S. Constitution. The guardians' attorney says the trial court took those protections into consideration. SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports.

Image courtesy of Bill Feterl

Northern Plains Watercolor Society held its twenty-third annual exhibit and competition at the Dahl Arts Center this weekend. Southwest artist Betty Carr juried the show and spent a couple of hours critiquing each entry. She stopped before a painting of an abandoned prairie house titled "Back Door" to comment specifically on the artist's use of color and light. SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this story.

Victoria Wicks

Paintings by Black Hills artist Tom Thorson are now on display at The Garage in Rapid City. Thorson has shown his work in various locations, not just in galleries but also at a highway patrol headquarters and a bar in Kansas. Thorson says he likes The Garage for the sunlight, the spaciousness, and the energy the shared work space brings to his art. SDPB's Victoria Wicks has more.

Victoria Wicks file photo

A jury trial has been set for January in a class-action lawsuit against Black Hills Federal Credit Union and the Credit Union National Association, or CUNA. Those agencies are accused of changing policies and raising rates for death or disability insurance without adequate notice to more than four thousand borrowers.

The suit has been going on for years. It was first filed in 2011. In August 2013, the South Dakota Supreme Court issued an opinion that a class action could commence. SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports from oral arguments and the opinion in that appeal.

SD Public Utilities Commission

The federal government cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent at the end of last year. In response, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission moved quickly to ensure that corporate utilities passed those savings along to their customers. SDPB's Victoria Wicks covered that story last December and has an update on the PUC's progress.

SD Department of Corrections

Convicted murderer Charles Rhines has lost another attempt to have his death penalty overturned, this time at the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now his options are dwindling, but they have not yet run out. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says the Eighth Circuit's ruling can be challenged in a couple of ways.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this story.

Art Lien

In June the United States Supreme Court overturned decades-old precedent that denied states the authority to require out-of-state vendors to collect and remit sales taxes.

South Dakota pushed the issue, and in April, Attorney General Marty Jackley argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

South Dakota prevailed, in part on the strength of its state law that streamlines the tax collection process and does not seek to collect retroactively. That same law also suspends tax collection while litigation with vendors is ongoing.

Victoria Wicks

Hospital food has long been the butt of Jell-O jokes. But an online search of the term "hospital food" turns up mixed reviews, some of them raves.

Rapid City Regional Hospital's chef hopes to earn rave reviews for taste but also has been introducing patients to food that is healthy.

He buys local foods when he can and has future plans to grow much of it in a garden near the hospital.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks met Scott Brinker during a recent tour of farms near Newell and follows up in Rapid City.

SD Department of Corrections

The South Dakota Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a Sioux Falls man convicted of manslaughter. David Randle Junior was convicted of carelessly handling a gun and causing the death of another man at a party in Sioux Falls on Oct. 24, 2015. The high court finds that the trial judge erred by not allowing the jury to consider excusable homicide. SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report, taken from details outlined in the written opinion.

Victoria Wicks

Growing food without pesticides can be challenging. But a local tomato grower manages to do that by introducing natural enemies to the pests in her greenhouse. During a recent tour of specialty producers in Newell, SDPB's Victoria Wicks learned more about beneficial predators.

Victoria Wicks

Nemo, S.D., lies about 20 miles northwest of Rapid City, but it takes more than half an hour to drive there. The slow trip is worth it. Nemo Road winds through some of the most beautiful scenery in the Black Hills.

In the summer, Nemo is hopping. It's home to the Nemo Guest Ranch, a collection of cabins and vendors housed in buildings built 129 years ago for other purposes. The former train depot is now a bar and restaurant; the infirmary and the schoolhouse are now guest cabins.

Victoria Wicks

On a farm near Newell are two white greenhouses, each one 124 feet long and 30 feet wide. This is where Kirby Tomatoes are grown. The greenhouses are contained ecosystems, with controlled temperatures, air movement, and water. But the plants are set in the gumbo soil of the Newell area that once nurtured sugar beets, a fact Becky Kirby credits for the sweetness of her tomatoes.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks visited the greenhouses on a recent tour.

Victoria Wicks

Belle Valley Ancient Grains is a farm near Newell. There Brian and Linda Stambaugh cultivate grains that have been around for thousands of years. The couple recently hosted a tour of the operation for a group of people interested in farm-to-table production of healthy foods. Victoria Wicks joined them and visited this farm where ancient grains are grown, sorted, and milled into specialty flour.

Victoria Wicks

This weekend the Artists of the Black Hills kicked off their annual exhibit at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City. The group consists of more than forty artists who create sculptures, photographs, and paintings in various mediums. One of the artists is Carol Lee Hilgemann, who assembles found objects into 3-D collage. SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this story.

SD Department of Corrections

The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld a First Circuit judge's decision to increase the sentence of a defendant who flipped him off in the courtroom. The high court heard oral arguments in April. At issue was whether the sentencing hearing had ended before the judge called the defendant back to reevaluate the sentence he had just imposed. SDPB's Victoria Wicks explains.

To read the full opinion, click here: