Klinetobe sentenced to life without parole in Rehfeld murder
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Jonathan Klinetobe, 30, has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the death of his former girlfriend, Jessica Rehfeld.
The moment Judge Heidi Linngren read her sentence aloud in the courtroom, Jessica Rehfeld’s family embraced one another with tears running down their faces. Following the hearing, Jessica’s sister, Misty said this sentence is a “complete victory” to know that what happened to her sister will not happen to any other woman.
“She was meant for so much incredibly more than this,” said Misty.
The four days of sentencing hearings centered around Klinetobe’s mental health and his responsibility for the murder.
Ultimately, Linngren decided on life imprisonment without parole citing Klinetobe as a danger to the community. While Linngren says Klinetobe suffered “unspeakable abuse” during his childhood which shaped his life, those experiences do not provide an excuse.
During her closing statement, Linngren read the presentence investigation into the record to distinguish several factors that led to her decision. She says Klinetobe played the leading role that “got the ball rolling” in the plan to kill Rehfeld and did nothing to prevent her murder.
Klinetobe agreed to pay Richard Hirth $80,000 to kill Rehfeld in 2015. After Hirth stabbed Rehfeld to death at least five times in David Schneider’s vehicle, Klinetobe, Hirth, and Schneider took turns burying her in a shallow grave near Rockerville. As they were driving away from the grave, they “agreed to not tell law enforcement about the killing.” Hirth was never paid.
Weeks later, Klinetobe recruited Michael Frye and Garland Brown to help move Rehfeld’s body to a different location and into a deeper grave.
Over the year to follow, Klinetobe was driven to the grave site multiple times and was “actively lying to Jessica’s family.”
Had it not been for the person who drove him to the grave site, who eventually turned in Klinetobe to law enforcement, Linngren says Rehfeld’s body may not have been found. Furthermore, had it not been for Klinetobe, “four people would not have acted on [his] directive…and Jessica would still be alive today.”
When police executed a search warrant of Klinetobe’s home in 2016, they found a necklace belonging to Rehfeld, her Walmart name tag, and other personal belongings. Linngren says “keeping trophies” was not a foolish mistake.
After testimony from Klinetobe’s mother and sister earlier in the week showed that he is capable of feeling remorse, remorse was not shown in this case aside from a “brief moment” in the courtroom.
Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo requested life in prison but for the state to rely on the role of commutations, which gives the power to the Governor to reduce a sentence. Representing Klinetobe, Elizabeth Regalado requested that parole be considered at some date in the future.
Both defense and state attorney’s referenced times in Klinetobe’s life where he had been on medication and that medication did not prove to be effective; serving as another factor in the life sentence.
Throughout Thursday’s hearing, Klinetobe remained still, looking ahead. After state and defense closing statements, he offered a few words of sorrow to Rehfeld’s family and to his own family. He continued to say that he just wants to get back on medication and “if this is an opportunity to get it, [he’d] do it…and show the world [he] can do right.”
“I’m sorry I made everyone do this for three years. I need the help,” said Klinetobe.
Following the sentencing hearing, Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo said, “It’s just very gratifying to see the work that was put in by the police department, the sheriff’s office from the very beginning, from all of my staff, the victim advocates, and all the attorneys that have worked on this — and then what this family has endured — it’s just very gratifying to see it all come together and be able to present it to a judge.”
Klinetobe pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of aiding and abetting first-degree manslaughter in Sept.
Richard Hirth is accused in her murder and is still awaiting trial.
David Schneider pleaded guilty to her murder in 2017 and is still awaiting sentencing.
Two others, Garland Brown and Michael Frye, both of Rapid City, pleaded guilty as accessories after the fact for helping to move and rebury Rehfeld’s body.