South Dakota’s fetal homicide cases


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — 22-year-old Sheldon Pettibone is now facing second degree manslaughter charges in the death of his unborn child.

Pettibone told police he was sitting on the couch watching football last Sunday while cleaning his handgun when the gun went off and his wife, who was four months pregnant, was shot in the thigh.

South Dakota is one of 38 states with fetal homicide laws. KELOLAND News has been taking a closer look at the history of that law and other cases it applied to.

There are several laws on South Dakota’s books regarding the death of an unborn child.

The State’s laws regarding homicide were updated to include an unborn child in 1995. South Dakota’s 2006 “fetal homicide” law does not apply to abortion in which the pregnant woman consented.

South Dakota defines an unborn child as: “an individual organism of the species homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth.”

The law has been applied more often than you may realize.

2013 Vargas Case

In 2013, Alfredo Vargas was sentenced to five years in prison for attempted fetal homicide for spiking his girlfriend’s beverages with an herb that would cause her to miscarry. The baby was born healthy and Vargas was let out of prison two years later.

2012 Young Case

Michael Young is currently serving life in prison for stabbing his ex-girlfriend and her unborn child to death in a Rapid City Walmart parking lot in 2012. One of the many charges he faced was that of fetal homicide.

2009 Flowers Case

In 2009 Shannon Flowers killed a 20-year-old pregnant woman with whom he was having an affair, killing both her and the baby. Flowers is also serving a life sentence.

2003 Keeble Case

Sundance Keeble was also charged with fetal homicide, after attacking his pregnant girlfriend with a knife. He is currently serving a prison sentence for first degree manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Unlike these previous cases, according to court papers, Pettibone claims the killing of the unborn child was accidental.

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