Boy, 17, Charged as Adult After 16-Year-Old Girl Was Found Dead in His Basement

By Wire Service Content

A South Dakota teenager is charged with killing a girl whose body was found inside his basement.

A prosecutor alleged on Oct. 9, the teen shot her after they had an argument.

The 17-year-old defendant has been charged as an adult with second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence upon conviction.

The teen made his initial court appearance Wednesday and will remain in juvenile detention with his bond set at $1 million.

Authorities believe the girl who was killed is 16-year-old Shayna Ritthaler, who was reported missing since last Thursday.

Shayna Ritthaler, 16, of Moorcroft, Wyoming. (Moorcroft Police Department)

Deputies found her body on Monday, in the basement of the teen’s home near Sturgis, which is in western South Dakota, just north of Rapid City and near the state’s border with Wyoming.

Ritthaler is from Moorcroft, Wyoming, which is about 70 miles west of Sturgis.

Argument Turned Violent

Michele Bordewyk, the acting Meade County state’s attorney, said in court that the defendant was with the victim when an argument turned violent and “he shot her,” the Rapid City Journal reported.

Defense attorney Steven Titus, of Gillette, Wyoming, told The Associated Press that he will ask that the case be returned to juvenile court and that his client will plead not guilty at his next court appearance, which is scheduled for Oct. 17.

The Associated Press isn’t naming the defendant because his case might end up back in juvenile court.

Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin said he couldn’t yet share details on how the girl died. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday. He told the newspaper that he doesn’t know how the defendant and victim knew each other.

The body was found when deputies and agents from the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation executed a search warrant on the request of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, which was working with investigators in Wyoming, the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post.

Bordewyk said the boy lived at the home with his mother and that he had recently moved there from Brookings, which is in eastern South Dakota near the state’s border with Minnesota.

Facts About Crime in the United States

Violent crime in the United States has fallen sharply over the past 25 years, according to both the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) (pdf).

The FBI recently released preliminary data for 2018. According to the Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January to June 2018, violent crime rates in the United States dropped by 4.3 percent compared to the same six-month period in 2017.

While the overall rate of violent crime has seen a steady downward drop since its peak in the 1990s, there have been several upticks that bucked the trend.

Between 2014 and 2016, the murder rate increased by more than 20 percent, to 5.4 per 100,000 residents, from 4.4, according to an Epoch Times analysis of FBI data. The last two-year period that the rate soared so quickly was between 1966 and 1968.

The Associated Press and NTD staff contributed to this report.