A mother who brought her son to Sioux Falls to escape life in Sudan continues to mourn his loss even after a second man was sentenced for his death.
Geu Ayuel, 20, was beaten to death 18 months ago in an alley in a central Sioux Falls neighborhood. On Friday, 23-year-old Jerome Ewing was sentenced to 35 years in prison for killing Ayuel.
Ewing's sentence came just a day after 19-year-old Dwight Ree was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in the crime.
Ayuel, Ewing, and Ree were all drinking back in June 2011 before they decided to go get cigarettes. At some point there was an argument and Ree and Ewing ended up beating Ayuel to death with chunks of pavement. They then tried to burn his body to cover up the evidence.
Ayuel's mother carried a picture of Ayuel as a young boy to court on Friday. It's the only thing his mother still has to hold onto.
"When you lost your child you lost your child, there is nothing left in your life," Ayuel’s mother Akuch Atem said.
The emotions are still raw for the Sudanese immigrant who came to Sioux Falls to find a better life for her son and her family. Instead Ayuel ended up dying in an alley in Sioux Falls after being brutally beaten by Ewing and Ree.
"I come here with my child,” Atem said. “I thought I did the best thing, but I just don't know what to do. I thought I did the best thing.”
Ewing was sentenced to more time than Ree because prosecutors said he was older and should have known better. Ewing had already served more than three years in federal prison for a similar beating that severely injured and individual on the Lower Brule Indian Reservation.
"The problem in a case like this with Mr. Ewing is his prior incident certainly takes away from his prospects for rehabilitation," Deputy Minnehaha County State's Attorney Ryan Sage said after the sentencing.
In court Ewing turned to Ayuel's family and apologized.
"Sincerely I apologize,” Ewing said. “I know it's not going to bring your loved one back but it's the best I can do."
Ayuel's family accepts the apology but his cousin said after court that their loved one, who loved everyone, is still gone forever.
"He loved people. He loved people. He loved human being, so Geu is a very good man," Ayuel's cousin Atem Juowei said. "He's a man I will never get in my life. I already lost it."
Ewing will have to serve 65 percent of his 35 year sentence before being eligible for parole.