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October 15, 2012 06:01 PM

Meade Co. Officials React To Robert's Execution

Sturgis, SD

Before killing corrections officer Ron Johnson during a botched escape attempt last April, Eric Robert was serving an 80-year sentence for kidnapping out of Meade County.

In July 2005, Robert was arrested after impersonating a police officer and kidnapping an 18-year-old woman. It's the case that marked the beginning of Robert's life behind bars.

"He had stopped a vehicle and got a hold of an individual in the vehicle and placed her in the trunk of a car," Meade County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Tom Wilts said.

Though the victim in that case wasn't hurt, a look into Robert's past showed a disturbing trend of violence.

"A couple of prior girlfriends of Mr. Robert ended up making contact with us and we learned some things through the relationships they had with him," Pennington County Deputy State's Attorney Tracey Decker said.

In 2005, Decker worked in the Meade County State's Attorney's office and helped convict Robert of kidnapping.  Decker says she was surprised to hear about Robert's deadly escape attempt.

"Even though, obviously, he is capable of very serious crimes, it's always a surprise to see how far people will go to try to gain their freedom," Decker said.

Seven years later, she hopes that Robert's scheduled execution will help the Johnson family will find some closure.

"He's obviously a man who takes responsibility for his actions because he pled guilty in the kidnapping, too.  And I think that he knows how much he devastated this family so I hope that tonight [Monday] they are able to get some satisfaction that justice is being done for their family," Decker said.

Robert entered the state's correctional system back in early January of 2006.  His kidnapping victim and a Meade County investigator testified at his death sentencing hearing last year.

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