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Berget's Criminal Past Detailed During Sentencing

January 31, 2012, 5:59 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Berget's Criminal Past Detailed During Sentencing
Rodney Berget

SIOUX FALLS, SD - Rodney Berget's violent past took center stage at his sentencing hearing Tuesday.

In 2003, Berget tried to kill his ex-girlfriend and the man she was living with at the time. He also kidnapped and raped a convenience store clerk the same night.

Berget is serving two life sentences for those crimes.

Now he's facing the death penalty for killing a corrections officer during an escape attempt last spring, and those crimes are being used as evidence against him.

Brian Horstman was one of the targets of Berget's bullet on the night of June 2, 2003. He was living with Berget's ex-girlfriend and testified Tuesday.

"I went to the door to see who it was and I didn't even get to the door. I was like four feet away from the door and all of a sudden I just felt this tremendous pain in my chest and I looked down and it was just covered in blood and glass shards all over the place," Horstman said.

Berget's ex-girlfriend also testified.  She says that night in 2003, she knew it was Berget coming to get her, and when she heard those gun shots, she went to get her own gun.

"I jumped over the coffee table, went to my bedroom. I got the gun, took the safety off and by the time I turned around, he was at my bedroom door. So, I just started shooting," Berget's ex-girlfriend said.

Horstman had to be taken to Rapid City where they removed the bullet five days later. Berget's ex-girlfriend was also hit in the back and spine with a bullet that night.

But Berget wasn't done.  He drove to Sturgis where he went into a convenience store and kidnapped the store clerk. Berget is serving a second life sentence for that crime. She also took the stand Tuesday and talked about that night.

"Somebody came in and I heard somebody say, 'Did you hear about the murders in Lead?' And I turned around and he had a gun at me," Berget's rape victim, who isn’t identified because she is a victim of sexual assault, said.

Berget kidnapped the clerk, raped her and then took her with him during a high-speed chase with law enforcement that ended near Midland, South Dakota.

Several former correctional officers also testified Tuesday and talked about the seven previous escape attempts Berget was involved in. Under state law, evidence about the inmate's criminal record can be considered when deciding if they should get the death penalty.

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