This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Brendon Wicken’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case with prejudice, citing he was denied his right to a speedy trial.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Earlier this month, we brought you a KELOLAND News Investigation into the case of an alleged sex abuse incident at a Watertown home day care.

The man accused was a registered sex offender who was illegally watching children in a day care. Police told us their case was solid, but the Codington County State’s Attorney never pursued any charges.

Now, Angela Kennecke has uncovered another case of child abuse, where that very same prosecutor dropped the ball, allowing the alleged perpetrator to continue to walk free, despite his own confession.

In tonight’s KELOLAND News Investigation, we hear the disturbing details of what took place, look at all the evidence against the man accused of abuse, and find out why the case is in limbo after nearly four years, resulting in “No justice for a little girl.”

Single mom, Kayla Jurgens, and Brendon Wicken were married in 2012.

Brendon Wicken and Kayla Jurgens on their wedding day in 2012/Submitted Photo

“He seemed fine at first when I met him. He was at the time, loving and caring and seemed like he wanted the best for me and the best for (her daughter), and after we got married, everything started to change,” Jurgens said.

Jurgens says Wicken was controlling of her, but his actions toward her daughter, who was 5 at the time, frightened her even more.

Jurgens: He would make her stand in a corner and she couldn’t move, nothing.
Kennecke: So he became the disciplinarian?
Jurgens: Yeah.
Kennecke: And what did she do wrong?
Jurgens: Anything, everything. She could look at him wrong and he’d send her to face the wall.

Jurgens says Wicken told her if she said anything about his treatment of her daughter, they would both go to jail. When Jurgens worked weekends, Wicken would be in charge of the girl’s care.

“He found this princess chair that she had. He would tie her arms and legs to it and put it in her closet and shut her closet door and shut her bedroom door and go downstairs and leave her there all day. I only found out because he had called me one time because she went to the bathroom. She tried to get him to let her go and he refused and he called me because she made a mess and I had to come home and clean it up.”

Kayla Jurgens, mother of abuse victim

With her little girl sitting in her own feces, Jurgens knows what she did next will be difficult for people to understand.

Jurgens: I untied her, cleaned her up, and made sure that she went to the bathroom if she had to and then he was standing there watching me and he had this look on his face like if I didn’t do exactly what he did, tie her back up and put her back in her closet, that it was going to get worse for her and for me. It was one of those death stares.
Kennecke: So you tied her back up?
Jurgens: Yeah.
Kennecke: You tied her back up?
Jurgens: Yeah, I was scared to death of him at that point. I didn’t know what else to do. I was so blown away by the whole thing.

Jurgens says Wicken tied up her daughter while she worked weekends for an entire year.

Kennecke: Did you ever say to him, this is wrong, don’t do this?
Jurgens: Well, I knew in my mind it was wrong. She was only in kindergarten–five-years-old. But I never said anything to him because I was scared to death of him.

The little girl’s grandmother became suspicious.

“She basically told me he was tying her up and she couldn’t play she couldn’t do anything and she had to stand in the corner all the time. He wouldn’t feed her. And she was getting thinner. I noticed that. And grandma, if he knows that I told you, he’s going to kill you.”

Grandmother Linda Schei said.
Brendon Wicken, Kayla Jurgens and Linda Schei, with the child/Submitted Photo

Schei first reported the abuse to police in July of 2017. According to the Watertown Police report, Schei told them that Wicken controlled her daughter. And that her granddaughter would roll into a ball and scream during tantrums. She also told police that the girl had to stand in the corner and couldn’t move.

“And there’s footprints there embedded in the carpet, still. Where she had to stand for hours with her forehead touching the wall,” Schei said.

In her initial report, Schei also said that her granddaughter was small and skinny and had regressed in potty training, “peeing and pooping her pants again.”

Schei returned to the Watertown police department to report the abuse again in September of 2017. She provided officers photos of bruises on the girl’s arms and legs.

Former Watertown Police Officer, Nic Ahmann took that report and went with Child Protective Services to interview the little girl at school. While she said that “dad” sometimes yelled at her, she denied any abuse.

“We believed there was something going on and we were hoping there would be a disclosure that would allow us to forensically interview the daughter. And that happened in 2018,” Ahmann said.

Nearly a year later, during a forensic interview that included Child’s Voice, the little girl told investigators what was happening to her.

She told them about Wicken “choking” her. She said that Wicken came up behind her in the dark and put his arm around her neck and then strangled her until she fell asleep.

Then she talked bout being tied up in the closet.

“She disclosed that when mom is gone, she is tied up by Brendon to a princess chair. She said she has tape put over her mouth. Her arms and legs are tied to the chair. And that mom knew about this,” Ahmann said.

After nearly 13 years on the police force, Ahmann says he’s seen victims of domestic abuse cover-up for their abusers.

“It was obvious that there was domestic abuse going on in the home. She was being manipulated and that she was also a victim herself,” Ahmann said.

This time, after the little girl’s revelation and an interview with her mother, police arrested Wicken.

“I conducted the interview with him,” Ahmann said.

In his interview, Wicken admitted that he had three protection orders filed against him by his previous mothers of his children and they cited domestic violence, which Wicken said wasn’t true.

“I explained to him that the daughter and Kayla had already been interviewed and they told us what had been happening. He then admitted to at least one time, tying the daughter up to the princess chair, with her legs to the chair, her arms behind her back, and putting tape over her mouth. He admitted to the child abuse,” Ahmann said.

Police handed over the case to Codington County State’s Attorney Rebecca Morlock Reeves. Wicken was charged with felony child abuse in July of 2018.

Codington County State’s Attorney Rebecca Morlock Reeves/Submitted Photo

Ahmenn felt he had an air-tight case.

“We want to build a case beyond a reasonable doubt. As we say, we want to put a bow on it and turn it over to the prosecutor’s office to make their job easier,” Ahmann said.

Page 1 of Brendon Wicken Case
Contributed to DocumentCloud by Angela Kennecke (KELO-TV) • View document or read text

After Wicken’s arrest, Jurgens was finally able to leave the marriage.

Kennecke: Do you take any responsibility for this?
Jurgens: I do. I feel 100 percent responsible I should have stopped it back then. And I never did.

Because of that, Jurgens says, she was all the more motivated to make sure her daughter received justice.

“The ball would start rolling and we’d be in court in front of the judge and jury and explaining what had happened and get him the punishment he deserves,” Jurgens said.

But months went by and the case dragged on, with little happening. In the fall, Wicken’s trial was delayed because witnesses for his defense were unavailable. Then the case stalled.

“I would contact constantly the prosecutors that took over the case, hey what’s going on? Is anything being done and she just kept coming up with excuses, I was sick, the family was sick,” Jurgens said.

“It puts law enforcement in a difficult position. The State’s Attorney is the chief law enforcement officer in that jurisdiction,” Ahmann said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020, all court cases slowed and the South Dakota Supreme Court suspended the 180 rule, which meant that under South Dakota law, defendants have a right to a trial within 180 days of being charged.

However, that wouldn’t apply to Wicken’s case because he had been charged back in July of 2018.

In December of 2021, Wicken’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case with prejudice, for failing to comply with South Dakota’s 180-day rule and his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The attorney noted that since the end of 2018, State’s Attorney Reeves “filed no motion for good cause to continue the case.”

Page 12 of Brendon Wicken Case
Contributed to DocumentCloud by Angela Kennecke (KELO-TV) • View document or read text

Ahmann: This is very unusual for a case like this, with the severity of it, felony child abuse, that you wouldn’t see some disposition, one way or the other.
Kennecke: Do you fault the state’s attorney?
Ahmann: I do.
Kennecke: What’s going on in the state’s attorney’s office? Why aren’t they following through with the prosecution?
Ahmann: We don’t know. We don’t know.

I paid a visit to the Codington County State’s Attorney’s office to ask why.

Kennecke: Is Rebecca Morlock Reeves here, please?
Deputy State’s Attorney Alison Bakken: She is not
Kennecke: She’s not here?
Bakken: {Unintelligable}
Kennecke: I’m sorry?
Bakken: She’s not available.
Kennecke: She’s here, but she’s not available?
Bakken: She’s not available, that’s our comment.

Schei: It needs to be taken care of. It needs to get out there and it needs him out there so that you can say this guy is no good, because she’s not doing anything about it.
Kennecke: Who’s not doing anything about it?
Schei: The prosecutor and I don’t think that’s right. If I’d a been a prosecutor, I would have had him in jail a long time ago.

Kennecke: What should happen here?
Jurgens: It should go to trial. And he should serve his time in prison. He’s out there. He can do it to another kid, or worse.

Jurgens filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office over the way the case was handled. She never received a response. Moments after I left the Codington County State’s Attorney Reeves’ office, she called Angela Kennecke to say that she would not agree to an interview and had no comment. KELOLAND Investigates also tried to contact Wicken, who now lives west of Minneapolis. He did not return any of our messages.