Daren Olson pleads guilty

Daren Olson pleads guilty A law enforcement officer watches as Daren Olson walks down a stairway in the Clay County Courthouse. Olson is free on bond after pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter. He admitted that he killed his infant daughter, Jordyn, last October. by David Lias Daren Olson, 23, a former University of South Dakota police officer, softly admitted to Circuit Court Judge Arthur Rusch Friday, Feb. 11 that he killed his infant daughter in a fit of anger.

Olson pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the Oct. 11 death of his 5-month-old daughter, Jordyn. Under a controversial plea agreement, prosecutors will not ask for more than 20 years in prison.

During his time in a Clay County courtroom in Vermillion, Olson mainly offered one or two-word replies to questions posed to him by Rusch.

His attorney, Sid Strange of Sioux Falls, did most of the talking for him in court.

Rusch told Olson that the maximum sentence for first- degree manslaughter, which is a Class 1 felony, is life in prison and a $25,000 fine. Olson indicated that he was aware of his rights, and the consequences of his plea Friday.

Rusch told Olson that if he pleaded guilty, he would be giving up his right to a jury trial, and his right against self-incrimination. Olson said he was aware of that.

Olson had also been charged with second-degree murder. Those charges were dropped in exchange for his guilty manslaughter plea.

Strange told Rusch that on the day of Jordyn Olson�s death, the defendant had the baby in his hands �and forcibly placed her on her changing table. That caused the skull fracture that ultimately led to her death.�

An autopsy showed that the child died of blunt head trauma.

Strange told Rusch that Olson has no memory of the moment that he fatally injured his daughter.

�I think it was one of those situations where he snapped, your honor,� Strange said.

Clay County State�s Attorney Tami Bern reminded Rusch that he was not restricted by the plea agreement�s sentencing recommendation.

�The court is not bound to follow it,� Rusch told Bern.

Ron Campbell and Gay Tollefson, prosecutors appointed by the Attorney General�s Office, were first suspended, then resigned over their handling of the case. Olson�s estranged wife, Maria, said that the two lawyers tried to bully her into agreeing to the plea bargain.

She attended the hearing Friday, rushing out of the courtroom in tears after the plea was accepted.

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