Alleged threats force judge to recuse herself from Rapid City attempted murder case

The portrait of a Rapid City man accused of trying to kill a Regional Health doctor was painted two very different ways in Pennington County court Thursday.

William Thoman, 63, is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 20-23 for the charges against him including attempted first degree murder and criminal solicitation.

Thoman is accused of trying to acquire a gun to kill a Regional Health Rapid City oncologist who had treated his wife, who later died.

The case was previously heard by Judge Jane Wipf Pfeifle, but she recused herself earlier this month. The case was then handed to Judge Jeffrey Connolly. The recusal, came as a surprise to both the prosecution and defense.

According to Trevor Thielen, the attorney prosecuting the case, a new, ongoing investigation into Thoman led to the recusal, pointing to multiple allegations of threats made towards Pfeifle and a main witness in the case. Thielen said the statements made to undisclosed witnesses in the Pennington County Jail were consistent with “getting rid of” both Pfeifle and the witness. Thoman appeared shocked as Thielen spoke, sitting with a dropped jaw.

Thielen said the doctor who was threatened is “extremely scared” after learning about the case and it has “transformed his life” in a negative way.

Thoman has not been charged regarding the new investigation.

The allegations came out after John Fitzgerald, Thoman’s attorney, referenced previous testimony from Psychologist Dewey Ertz that Thoman was not a threat to the community. Since the beginning of the case, Fitzgerald argues Thoman had no actual plan to kill the doctor and he was going through the natural grieving process, which includes anger.

According to Fitzgerald, Thoman’s neighbors said he made references to “hitting [the doctor] with a baseball bat”, “running him over with a car”, and “throwing him off a bridge”. When asked why they didn’t report the statements to the police, Fitzgerald quoted the neighbors to say, “That’s just Bill” and says he would never kill anyone.

Fitzgerald claims the new allegations are just “an attempt by the state to sensationalize the case” and to keep Thoman in jail. He requested bond be lowered to $50,000, questioning why it was set so high to begin with when “someone can hold an actual gun to someone’s actual head and get a more reasonable bond”, referring to an unrelated case.

Thielen asked that Thoman’s bond be raised to $1 million cash only but Connolly ordered bond stay at $250,000.

Whether the testimony from Ertz, previously heard by Pfeifle, will be used in the case is still up in the air. The previous hearing will not be repeated before Connolly because it would unnecessarily extend the case and “potentially make it more difficult.”

Connolly is expected to make a decision in June.

Categories: Crime, Local News