RAPID CITY, S.D. -  A 31-year-old Rapid City man was sentenced to 70 years for first-degree manslaughter Thursday.

The courtroom was filled with members of the victim's family and supporters. 

Andrew Thorson pleaded guilty on April 13 to the charge of killing Dhani Aronson on Oct. 31, 2021.

Aronson was found in a ditch near the intersection of Highway 16 and Wilderness Canyon Road, on Nov. 1, 2021.

Originally being charged with second-degree murder, prosecutors reached a plea agreement to reduce the crime to first-degree manslaughter with a 50-year sentence and Thorson understood that the court wasn't bound to the agreement.

During the sentencing, three members of Aronson's family gave statements.

Samuel Akers, Aronson's dad, shared that speaking in front of everyone in that courtroom was the second hardest thing he had to do in his life; The first was "burying my son." He also shared that Aronson had two daughters, brothers and sisters. One of his younger brothers goes to bed and wakes up to a picture of Aronson next to him to look at.

April Akers, Aronson's step-mom, says that what happened caused pain to her grandchildren and children and that she's had to help put the pieces back together. She also explained that the feeling is a "pain so deep words can't express" and "anger so strong I feel like I'm losing my mind." She said that Aronson was a large heartstring in the blended family and you can't replace that.

Thorson apologized to the family and for the pain he caused during his statement, saying that he'll be dealing with the repercussions of his actions for the rest of his life.

After a brief recess, Circuit Court Judge Stacy Wickre returned after looking at the information presented.

She took into account of mitigations the defense had with Thorson's minimal criminal record (his only other contact with the justice system was a misdemeanor conviction in Nebraska), abiding by jail laws and being partially accountable with the guilty plea.

But she also says there are "some aggravating factors that bothered" her with the plea agreement, like not rendering life-saving measures and taking several measures to hide the crime.

After the sentence, the crowd started applauding which the judge quickly stopped before continuing.

Thorson received a 70-year sentence at the state penitentiary with 15 years suspended, parole eligibility is 50% of his sentence and he has 555 days of credit.


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Mackenzie Dahlberg joined the NewsCenter1 team in May 2022. Along with her love of sports photography, she enjoys watching most sports – the top ones being football, baseball and hockey.