Trial Date Is Scheduled For October 2022

TYNDALL — A Scotland man will stand trial in October 2022 after pleading not guilty to all nine charges related to a Nov. 9 shooting in which three people died and two were injured.

Francis D. Lange, 42, appeared Tuesday for arraignment in Bon Homme County Circuit Court. He entered the not guilty pleas and requested a jury trial.

His attorneys, Seth Klentz of Beresford and Raleigh Hansman of Sioux Falls, said they will enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty but mentally ill. They indicated they will seek a mental evaluation of their client.

Judge Cheryle Gering set a Feb. 28 deadline for the state to decide whether to seek the death penalty on the three first-degree murder charges.

The shooting took place at a Scotland residence where Lange had once lived with his former girlfriend. The three deceased persons included the former girlfriend and two others. The injured individuals included a woman who was flown to a Sioux Falls hospital and a 5-year-old child.

Gering anticipates a lengthy court process in the case. She has set Oct.19-21 for jury selection and Oct. 24-Nov. 4 for the trial.

“If we finish jury selection in less than three days, that doesn’t mean we start the trial early,” she said. “We will still start with opening statements the morning of October 24.”

In addition, Gering allowed the defense to hire a private investigator for their client. The judge approved the hiring of Jodi Hoffman of Confidential Investigative Services in Milbank, setting a cap of $5,000.

In court documents, Klentz and Hansman said the private investigator was critical for a competent defense of Lange.

“Defense counsel needs to know the accuracy of law enforcement’s reporting, as well as gather their own relevant information from law enforcement witnesses,” the motion said. “Additional potential witnesses that have not yet been identified by law enforcement also need to be interviewed.”

Before Tuesday’s hearing, Gering met for about 15 minutes with attorneys from both sides in her chambers. Brent Kempema and Katie Mallery with the South Dakota attorney general’s office participated by Zoom. Bon Homme County State’s Attorney Lisa Rothschadl, Deputy State’s Attorney Abigail Monger, Klentz and Hansman attended in person.

Back in the courtroom, Gering indicated the conference concerned a possible scheduling timeline.

The judge said she anticipates a questionnaire will be sent to prospective jurors. The prosecution and defense will work jointly, providing their draft of the questionnaire by April 8, reflecting whether the death penalty is sought.

“You’ll work together, but that doesn’t mean you’ll agree,” the judge told the two sides. “You do the best you can, and you tell me where you disagree.”

A Bon Homme County grand jury indicted Lange on nine charges. Gering provided the defendant with a copy of the indictment and read the charges with the possible sentence for each one.

• Lange faces three charges of first-degree murder for the alleged premeditated killing of Librado Monclova, Angela Monclova and Diane Akins (aka Loretta Akins).

Each charge is a Class A felony carrying a sentence of the death penalty or mandatory life in the South Dakota penitentiary and a possible $50,000 fine.

• He faces two counts of first-degree attempted murder for the alleged premeditated attempt to cause the death of Vicki Monclova and a 5-year-old child identified by initials M.M.

Each charge is a Class 2 felony that carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in the South Dakota penitentiary and a $50,000 fine.

• In addition, Lange faces two charges of aggravated assault for allegedly attempting physical menace with a deadly weapon against Vicki Monclova and M.M. The charges alleged he used a handgun to put the two persons in fear of imminent serious bodily harm.

Each charge is a Class 2 felony that carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in the South Dakota penitentiary and a $50,000 fine.

• Also, Lange faces two counts of commission of a felony while armed with a firearm for the alleged attempted murder of Vicki Monclova and M.M. with a firearm.

Each charge is a Class 2 felony with a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $50,000 fine with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

In addition, the court can order restitution and the covering of prosecution and court costs.

Gering noted she wants to move the process along while also realizing the many complex factors of the case.

Defendants are guaranteed a speedy trial under both the U.S. Constitution and state law, Gering noted. In addition, South Dakota law contains a rule seeking a trial within 180 days of a defendant’s first court appearance before a judge, although that timeline can be changed depending on circumstances.

The current proceedings almost certainly fall under that latter case, Gering said. “It’s just not practical that this will be completed within six months,” she said.

She noted the process of discovery, pre-trial hearings, responses to motions and information by attorneys from both sides, jury selection and the trial itself.

As one of the first major steps, the prosecution must decide if it will pursue the death penalty, Gering said. Should the state choose to do so, it would almost certainly lengthen the court process, she added.

South Dakota has suspended the 180-day rule since March 2020 because of the COVID pandemic, the judge noted. However, she anticipated it could be brought back in the course of Lange’s court proceedings.

If that were the case, the judge asked Lange if he would waive the 180-day rule if it was reinstated, and he agreed to do so.

Gering proceeded with the scheduling of court proceedings, jury selection and the trial. At this point, the court dates provide a timeline subject to changes, depending on circumstances.

The judge set dates for completing each step in the process, but she noted the state’s decision on the death penalty will play a major role in scheduling.

Lange remains in the Bon Homme County Jail in Tyndall.

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