- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A South Dakota inmate already serving a 75-year sentence must spend an additional 20 years in prison for strangling his cellmate to death with a homemade rope last year at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls.

The sentence against 29-year-old Douglas Ipsen on a first-degree manslaughter charge in the death of convicted killer Kent Davidson came Monday in Sioux Falls. Judge Susan Sabers ordered the sentence after an emotional Ipsen explained that he assisted Davidson in killing himself at his request.

“When Kent asked me to kill him, I was very hesitant,” Ipsen said. “I spent months pushing him off, telling him that I didn’t want to do it.”

But Ipsen said he also had been suicidal from a young age, and he eventually relented and agreed to help Davidson die. State law does not allow for assisted suicide.

“It really was the hardest thing that I ever had to do,” Ipsen said.

The 37-year-old Davidson, whose body was found in his cell, died from strangulation and asphyxia, according to his death certificate. He was hurt late on Sept. 7 and died early on Sept. 8. Authorities said a bedsheet was used in the slaying.

Davidson was serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the 2013 shooting death of his former fiancée, 26-year-old Crystal Schulz.

Prosecutor Doug Barnett rejected the possibility of an assisted suicide and asked Sabers to sentence Ipsen to the maximum penalty of 50 years for the manslaughter charge. But Sabers handed Ipsen a 30-year sentence with 10 years suspended after explaining that the case did not have aggravating facts that would grant the maximum sentence.

Sabers explained the evidence did not show that Davidson fought back when Ipsen strangled him and did leave a handwritten note addressed to South Dakota Department of Corrections employees stating that he was “suicidal,” had been denied help many times, and had decided to take matters into his own hands.

“Mr. Davidson himself was suicidal, you struggle with that as well, and perhaps this will shine some light on the concept of putting two suicidal individuals together in a jail cell and perhaps that’s part of what went wrong here,” Sabers said.

The South Dakota Department of Corrections had deemed Ipsen a “low moderate” risk, while Davidson was assessed as a “moderate” risk. The men became cellmates April 30, 2014.

Ipsen is serving 60 years for first-degree rape of a child and an additional 15 years for sexual contact with a child under the age of 16, both in Butte County. He arrived at the penitentiary on September, 2010.


Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO

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