Rapid City mayor recalls interviewing murder suspect Charles Rhines

Local News

RAPID CITY, SD (KELO) — The mayor of Rapid City says he has no interest in attending South Dakota death row inmate Charles Rhines’ execution, should a judge rule that the lethal injection can move forward. Steve Allender was a lead investigator of Donnivan Schaeffer’s murder in 1992, when Allender was a detective with the Rapid City Police Department. Allender says Rhines’ crime was so brutal and bizarre, it gave him a nightmare.

Steve Allender interviewed Charles Rhines multiple times during the course of the murder investigation, including the night of the killing. Allender says Rhines’ personality revealed a lethal mix of intelligence and arrogance, that he found very disturbing.

The grisly stabbing death of Donnivan Schaffer inside a donut shop back in 1992 left the entire community of Rapid City shaken and fearful.

“Because there were a lot of rumors that started circulating in the community about a killer on the loose and everybody worried about their kids and that sort of thing,” Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender said.

But the evidence mounted against suspect Charles Rhines who had left for Seattle, Washington after the killing. Allender recalls a tense confrontation with Rhines after spotting a shotgun in the back of Rhines’ car.

“So he’s reaching for his car and I’m holding his wrist and the Seattle police all around there eventually are positioning themselves so that they’ll have a backstop for their bullets,” Allender sid.

But Rhines surrendered his shotgun that day and he eventually returned to Rapid City to stand trial for Schaeffer’s murder.

“I watched the jury as they listened to the confession of Charles Rhines on audio tape and their reaction to his confession was appropriate. Any human being would be repulsed by the things he said and the way he said them,” Allender said.

During his trial, Rhines even licked his finger and wiped it on our camera lens. The facts of the case and Rhines’ arrogant demeanor haunted Allender throughout the course of his investigation.

“It’s the only case I ever investigated, or the only case I had ever seen as a police officer for 30 years, that I ever had a nightmare about, it was just creepy and weird,” Allender said.

Allender says he’s been invited to be a witness to Rhine’s execution. But he won’t attend, saying he doesn’t want to spend any more time with the killer who’s crime shocked the community.

“Whatever day it happens, I’ll be doing all my regular stuff and hoping and praying that the Schaeffers can have some peace over it,” Allender said.

Allender says Rhines has played the legal system with all of his appeals during his nearly three decades on death row. Allender says he favors the death penalty, but he thinks it will eventually be repealed because of what he deems are vulnerabilities that have allowed inmates like Rhines to delay execution for so long.

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