Execution witnesses put focus on Charles Rhines’s victim, Donnivan Schaeffer

Local News

Convicted killer and death row inmate, Charles Rhines died by lethal injection Monday night. The state of South Dakota executed him after a six hour delay.

The United States Supreme Court rejected three appeals to stay his execution. The people who witnessed his execution made it clear, Monday’s execution was not about Rhines. They said it was about Donnivan Schaeffer, the man Rhines murdered in 1992.

During their statements, several of them avoided mentioning Rhines by name. Three attorneys who have worked closely with the Schaeffer family witnessed the execution. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg was the first witness to speak.

“Today, I’d like to remember Donnivan Schaeffer, the victim who was brutally murdered by the killer who just met justice,” Ravnsborg said.

Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo was a prosecutor on the Rapid City murder case in the early ’90s. Vargo touched on the various appeals over the years that delayed today’s execution and their affect on Donnivan’s parents.

“They’ve been put through hoops that have nothing to do with the integrity of protecting the process of ensuring justice, but are mechanisms of delay,” Vargo.

Dennis Groff was the lead prosecutor during Rhines’s case.

“The people who matter the most and will always matter will be the parents of Donnivan Schaeffer who have carried this burden for so long,” Groff said.

“Words cannot express the sorrow I feel for the fact Donnivan was killed and I’m glad we were finally able to get justice for him today. I’m hopeful this day is an opportunity for the family to move forward,” Ravnsborg said.

Rhines did not apologize to Ed and Peggy Schaeffer for killing their son, Donnivan. In his last words, Rhines said, “Ed and Peggy Scheffer, I forgive you for your anger and hatred toward me. I pray to God he forgives you for your anger and hatred for me.” Rhines’s last meal included fried chicken, lefsa, coffee with cream and sugar, and cookies and ice cream.

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