“I will forever question myself, if I told him I loved him enough.” Family impact statements at manslaughter sentencing
RAPID CITY, S.D. – Ashley Peltier, a Rapid City woman, was sentenced on Friday for First-Degree Manslaughter in the death of her boyfriend, James Steven Rice, also known as Stanley Kennard III.
Rice’s death resulted from a stabbing during an altercation on June 9, 2021. The maximum sentence for first-degree manslaughter is life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine. Based on the statements from the prosecution and defense, along with the belief that this action is unlikely to be repeated, Peltier was given a sentence of 40 years in prison, with 20 years suspended. Peltier will also be paying the legal fees for the prosecution.
On June 9, 2021, 36-year-old, Peltier made a call to 911 about accidentally stabbing Rice during an altercation regarding one of Peltier’s exes. State prosecutors say that Peltier got in the face of Rice and he pushed her back. It was at this moment that Peltier grabbed a knife with the intention to scare Rice. The prosecution claims that Peltier stabbed Rice to “prove a point,” while the defense claims that the knife accidentally ended up in his chest as he approached Peltier. The defense also stated that Peltier had no intention of harming Rice.
In December 2022, Peltier was convicted of First Degree Manslaughter after a three-day trial. At the sentencing hearing, eight family members and the best friend of Rice gave impact statements. All of the family members stated how much they looked up to Rice. One of his nieces stated how “he was a silent victim of domestic abuse.” Other family members recalled how they would frequently see Rice with bodily injuries and he was unable to come up with conclusive reasoning for how he was injured.
During the relationship between Rice and Peltier, there was one other reported instance of domestic abuse with Peltier being the victim in that instance. However, Peltier declined to press charges. Peltier and Rice also had two young children together, who were sleeping in an adjacent room when Rice was stabbed.
Another one of Rice’s nieces recalled his “goofy personality,” and said how she “will forever question myself if I told him I loved him enough.” She then went on to say, “one day, the defendant will be able to sit with her family for dinner, while we will be left with an empty seat at the table.” She continued, “we might not come from a lot, but where we come from, family is all we got.”
After the impact statements, the state prosecutors recommended a sentence of 65 years in prison.
Next, the defense gave their statement. The defense attorney claimed that Rice never let Peltier leave, saying that their relationship wasn’t all good and that “there were dark days.” The defense reiterated that Peltier’s intent was not to hurt Rice, “the knife was used to scare him.” The defense claimed that Peltier’s lack of criminal history and the fact that she called 911 should justify a lighter sentence with a longer period of supervision.
After the statement of the defense attorney, Peltier gave a statement. She started by saying, ” I truly did love James.” She continued by saying, “They (Rice’s family) never saw his bad side.” Throughout the trial, Rice’s family noticed how Peltier seemed to show a lack of remorse. But, Peltier claimed that this was because “I haven’t had the time to properly mourn.” Peltier has spent the last 20 months in Pennington County Jail.