Two people are in jail, charged in the murder of 45-year-old Robert Thunderhawk. Police say Thunderhawk was beaten to death with a shovel during an alcohol-fueled argument. It happened in a wooded area near East 1st Street and North Blauvelt Avenue that is known as a homeless hangout. And all three knew each other.
43-year-old Eugene Martin, who goes by 'Eddie' is charged with 1st-degree murder, while 52-year-old Clint Cottonwood is charged with four counts of simple assault. Authorities say all three men were homeless and that they had been living in the wooded area together for weeks.
Police got a call shortly after 6:30 Thursday night about a body in the woods. Officers had to travel more than 300 feet into the area.
"It's pretty much gated off," Lieutenant Blaine Larsen of the Sioux Falls Police Department said. "It's tough to get in to. You can't get vehicle traffic back in there. You'd almost have to access it by walking in from the railroad tracks. So, it doesn't get a whole lot of foot traffic."
Once they ventured in, officers found a man partially covered by a tarp, along with several other items nearby.
"When they got back in there, officers discovered a transient camp," Larsen said. "It consisted of a tent, a little cooking area and some chairs."
Shortly after discovering the body, officers arrested Martin and Cottonwood. Authorities say an alcohol-fueled argument led to Martin beating Thunderhawk with a shovel.
"We feel Mr. Martin's role was quite a bit more substantial in the end result and that's why the charges were as they are," Larsen said.
Larsen says police have had run-ins with all three individuals in the past. They're just part of the homeless problem in Minnehaha County, where more than half of all homeless South Dakotans reside.
"A lot of them choose to or they enjoy this lifestyle," Larsen said. "They choose to be out there."
And now, two of them have made a choice that resulted in Sioux Falls' first homicide of 2012.
Authorities say Thunderhawk was likely killed sometime before 4 p.m. Thursday. Bond was set for Martin at $500,000 cash and Cottonwood at $50,000 cash. Neither of them are allowed to have contact with one another. Their next court appearance is set for May 18.