Dan and Rangler Ceplecha plead guilty to first degree manslaughter

By Tim Huether

Daniel and Rangler Ceplecha entered pleas of guilty to first degree manslaughter in a plea agreement with the State of South Dakota at a change of plea hearing February 28, in Martin at the Bennett County Courthouse. Their sentencing date is set for June 6, 2018.

The Ceplechas were awaiting trial after previously entering pleas of not guilty to charges of first degree murder, an alternative charge of second degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, resulting in the death of Moses Red Bear.

The original charges were the result of their arrest for the death of Red Bear on or around November 12, 2016. The Martin Police Department received reports of a homicide that had occurred at a residence in the City of Martin that led to the eventual arrest of the Ceplecha’s.

With the plea agreement, the state will dismiss the charges of first degree murder, second degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and will not bring additional charges. They may be sentenced to anywhere from life in prison to being released with time served. 

Judge Bobbi Rank informed both Dan and Rangler that if they are sentenced to life in prison, they will not be eligible for parole.

Rank told the Ceplechas that if they agree to a plea, their rights to a trial and several other rights would go away. She thoroughly informed them of what all happens with their plea and questioned them in detail to make sure they understood and were competent to make the decision to enter their pleas of guilty. Both Rangler and Dan answered they understood what they were doing.

Rangler’s attorney, Bradley Borge, said Rangler was evaluated to see if he was competent to stand trial and it was determined he was. He was asked many questions and on a scale of one to five, five being fully understood, Rangler answered five to most all the questions asked. When Borge was asked by judge Rank if he felt Rangler understood the charges, Borge responded, “yes, I have zero doubt.”

Pearl Red Bear was allowed to speak and represent the Moses Red Bear family and when asked if she was made aware of the plea bargain, she said she was made aware but tearfully stated, “I don’t agree with what the plea agreement is. They murdered my brother.”

Judge Rank informed everyone that under Marcy’s Law, the victim (family) has the right to comment and give a statement at the hearing and at the sentencing. She said the victim’s family will have the ability to submit a victim’s impact statement at the sentencing. They will have the opportunity to make comments to the state as part of the sentencing.

The initial trial was going to be moved to Tripp County following a request for a change of venue with the Ceplecha’s arguing they would not get a fair trial in Bennett County. The cost to the County has been at least $70,000 to this point and would have likely more than doubled if it had gone to a trial. With the plea, no trial will happen.

Judge Rank informed the Ceplechas they will also be responsible for restitution to the victim and the county with the amount of restitution not determined at this time.

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