SD prison guard killed during failed escape try


AP Photo/Dirk Lammers

A guard house sits atop a wall of the South Dakota State Penitentiary, where a guard was shot and killed during a failed escape attempt, Tuesday in Sioux Falls, S.D. The two suspects in the case were apprehended.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Two convicted kidnappers killed a guard Tuesday during a failed attempt to escape from a Sioux Falls prison where they were serving lengthy sentences, authorities said.

Rodney Berget and Eric Robert, both 48, were apprehended on the grounds of the South Dakota Penitentiary, and a sweep of the facility showed all staff and inmates were accounted for, the state Department of Corrections said.

Berget is serving life for attempted murder and kidnapping convictions, and Robert is serving an 80-year sentence for a kidnapping conviction.

The duo tried to escape shortly before 11 a.m., assaulting the guard in the process, the Department of Corrections said. The guard was pronounced dead at a hospital, and a second guard suffered minor injuries in the incident. The department did not release the guards' identities or further details about the escape attempt or attack.

The prison, which has both maximum and minimum security wings, was locked down pending an investigation.

Berget and Robert were taken to the county jail in Sioux Falls, authorities said.

Berget, of Aberdeen, was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty in Dec. 2003 to one count of attempted first-degree murder and being a habitual criminal with prior felony convictions. He was accused of entering the home of his ex-girlfriend in Lead and shooting her and her boyfriend. Both survived.

Berget also was convicted in Meade County for kidnapping a convenience store clerk in Sturgis. He was arrested and the clerk escaped after troopers used road spikes to stop the car near Midland.

Berget had been in and out of South Dakota's prison system since 1984.

In 1987, he and five other inmates broke out of the penitentiary in Sioux Falls by cutting through bars in an auto shop. They took off on Memorial Day and Berget was not caught until mid-July.

The late Herm Solem, former prison warden, said in 2003 that he remembered Berget as the kind of inmate who could not stay out of trouble.

"He was always in some minor discipline problem, oftentimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people," Solem said.

Robert, of Piedmont, pleaded guilty to kidnapping in a 2005 plea bargain in which other charges were dismissed.

An 18-year-old woman told police that a man posing as a plainclothes police officer pulled over her car near Black Hawk, told her he needed to search it and then forced her into the trunk. She used her cell phone to call for help, and she was found unharmed.

The victim sued Robert in 2009 and was awarded more than $1 million in damages. Robert represented himself by telephone for that jury trial.


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