A South Dakota man will serve life in prison for intentionally running over a 77-year-old Mandan who was picking up his granddaughter after an early morning sports practice last March.
A judge weighed Wade Bison’s fate only briefly during a hearing on Wednesday before handing down the sentence which offers no chance of parole. It’s a phrase that Erwin Geigle’s family members said they searched for, but that doesn’t end the loss of a man they called “Swervin’ Erwin,” a nod to her prowess on the dance floor.
South Central District Judge Douglas Bahr sentenced Bison on lesser felony charges before returning to the most serious charge of murder. He said his only decision after hearing comments from a lawyer and testimony from a probation officer was whether Bison, 39, should be given the option of parole.
“I don’t think we can stress enough the seriousness of this situation,” the judge said, calling it “horrible, unprovoked and random.”
In April, Bison pleaded guilty to murder in the March 21 death of Geigle, 77, who was at the All Seasons Arena complex picking up her granddaughter from morning sports practice.
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Geigle was punched and killed multiple times in the parking lot of the arena, which is right next to the high school, police said.
There was no provocation by Geigle that prompted Bison to hit him with his pickup truck, Morton County Assistant Attorney Gabrielle Goter said. Bison had to slam on his brakes when Geigle walked past him, which angered Bison. He left exhaustion marks on the sidewalk as he accelerated and hit Geigle, who tried to get up but couldn’t because Bison “kicked him down two more times”, said the prosecutor.
“It should never have happened,” Goter said, referring to Bison’s criminal history of 54 prior convictions, including a one-year incarceration. He was offered “opportunity after opportunity” through probation and programs.
“And yet here we are. An innocent man lost his life just for crossing the street to pick up his granddaughter,” Goter said.
On Wednesday, Bison did not address the court before or after sentencing. Defense attorney Steve Balaban, at Bison’s request, asked Bahr for a 10-year prison sentence, five of which were suspended, and a term of probation to be determined by the court. If the sentence was life, Balaban requested that it be accompanied by the possibility of parole.
“Mr. Bison is not an old man, he’s not a young man,” Balaban said. “I think with a prison sentence he can redeem himself and be fit to reenter society.”
Bison’s sentencing request was “almost offensive to the court,” Bahr said.
“Nothing was done to warrant any action towards the deceased,” Bahr said. Some of Bison’s past convictions were non-violent, but when he was given the opportunity to be helped to become a productive member of the community, he refused and continued to engage in behavior “harmful to himself and to others.” others,” the judge said.
Life without parole was an appropriate sentence because this pattern would likely continue and community members would be put at risk if Bison was not incarcerated, Bahr said.
The judge also ordered Bison to pay restitution of approximately $10,000 for funeral expenses and damage to the arena.
“Sweet in Everything”
That March morning was the day Geigle picked up her granddaughter from training, said Evelyn Snyder, who is married to Geigle’s nephew.
“He was a great, great man,” Snyder said. “He was so sweet in everything, just a very, very easy-going, sweet guy.”
Geigle and his wife, Jeanette, who weren’t in the courtroom, loved to dance the polka and jitterbug, with other dancers sometimes clearing a circle in an attempt to stay away, Snyder said. She said Jeanette Geigle can accept the fact that her husband is gone, but not the way he died.
“It’s his biggest injury,” Snyder said.
Dennis Snyder, Erwin Geigle’s nephew, said the family had hoped for the life sentence without parole. Although they understood this, it does not bring closure.
“Not yet,” he said. “We’re just going to have to learn to live with it because nothing’s going to bring it back. It’s something you’ll never recover from. »
During a court appearance in April, Bison told Bahr he got upset because Geigle walked ahead of him. He said he put his foot on the accelerator “just to rev the engine”, but hit Geigle. When he saw the extent of Geigle’s injuries “I thought there was nothing I could do, nothing I could do. I freaked out,” Bison said. “I just closed my eyes and hoped I had mercy on him.”
During this hearing, Bahr asked Bison if he intentionally ran over Geigle to ensure he was dead.
In April, Bison also pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident involving death, terror and reckless endangerment, as well as counts of criminal mischief and driving with a suspended license.
Rescuers heard Geigle’s phone ringing in the parking lot, Goter said. Jeanette later told authorities she tried to reach him.
The truck’s movements were also captured on surveillance video, including the truck rolling over a figure on the ground that was in the same position as Geigle’s body. The truck caused damage estimated at $1,800 to the arena.
Witnesses said the stolen Ford F-250 pickup truck “quickly left” the parking lot where teachers, students and parents were coming and going. A teacher said he was almost hit.
“No attempt was made by the driver of the (pickup) to check for damage or injuries to Geigle before recklessly leaving the scene,” according to a police affidavit.
Bison was arrested by Bismarck police later the morning of March 21 after an accident on State Street that sent the stolen pickup truck he was driving and a stolen SUV he was towing down an embankment and into a chain-link fence at the exterior of Motel 6. The crash followed a police chase that reached speeds of up to 50 mph.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of theft, fleeing a police officer with risk of death or serious injury, and possession of drug paraphernalia, as well as misdemeanor driving with suspension. The most serious of these charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He will be sentenced Thursday on these charges.
In an affidavit, police said Bison was a known meth user and had two used syringes in his pants pocket when he was arrested. Authorities initially said Bison was from Bismarck or Fargo. He told Bahr during his plea change hearing that he was from Wakpala, South Dakota.
North Dakota court records show Bison has a long history of alcohol, drug and driving convictions dating back to 2003, including incidents last year. During one such incident, he told Mandan police his name was Rico Havoc.