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Life sentence for Spirit Lake Nation murder upheld by Court of Appeals

Dallas Wayne Thundershield

The U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of a Spirit Lake Nation man serving life in prison for a fatal 2016 stabbing.

Dallas Wayne Thundershield, 38, of Fort Totten, N.D., hoped the higher court would overturn the sentence that was handed down in January 2017 after he fatally stabbed 52-year-old Richard DeMarce in the chest on April 9, 2016, on the Spirit Lake Reservation. After the assault, Thundershield ran over DeMarce with a pickup, according to court documents.

He also was found guilty of wounding Elvis DeMarce, 43, with a knife and beating his girlfriend following the attack. A U.S. District Court jury found him guilty of second-degree murder, assault with intent to commit murder, assault with a dangerous weapon and assault resulting in substantial bodily injury.

Thundershield argued evidence was insufficient to convict him on all counts and the district court erroneously admitted evidence of his prior convictions.

But in an opinion issued Tuesday, the Court of Appeals stated the defense could have made arguments that evidence was insufficient. The evidence of prior convictions also did not have influence or had only a slight influence on the verdict and was not wrongfully considered by the court, the opinion stated.

“The government’s obligation was to present sufficient evidence to the jury such that it could conclude without reasonable doubt that Thundershield committed the crimes alleged,” the opinion said. “If believed, the evidence presented to this jury was sufficient to convict Thundershield.”

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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