Ansley Man Pleads Guilty To Motor Vehicle Homicide In Custer County District Court

CUSTER COUNTY— It was a full morning of criminal cases in Custer County District Court on Thursday, January 23 with a number of the cases heard resulting in plea deals.

Kenneth Loucks, 42 of Broken Bow, has taken a plea deal and will now await sentencing following his court case. Loucks pled no contest to two charges of 3rd-degree assault (each a class I misdemeanor) and will now appear back in court on March 5 at 10 AM to be sentenced.

Sam Payton, 41 of Callaway, made his appearance in district court facing three charges that included assault, strangulation and child abuse. Through a plea deal with the state, Payton pled no contest to 3rd-degree domestic assault-2nd offense (class IIIA felony) and the other two charges were dropped.

Also as part of the plea deal, a joint recommendation for sentencing by Payton’s attorney Michael Borders and Custer County Attorney Steve Bowers was brought forward where they asked that Payton be sentenced to one year in the county jail.

Payton will be back in court on March 5 at 10:15 AM to appear for sentencing where he could face up to three years in prison if the maximum is imposed by the court.

David Skeels, 67 of Ansley, could spend over six years in prison if he is sentenced to the maximum for the accident that killed a South Dakota man on October 23, 2018. On Thursday, Skeels took a plea deal and pled guilty to motor vehicle homicide (class IIIA felony), criminal attempt (class IIIA felony), and reckless driving (class III misdemeanor).

According to the factual basis read by County Attorney Bowers, Skeels was traveling east on Cumro Road at approximately 55 mph when he failed to stop at the stop sign at the intersection of Highway 183 and crashed into the side of a Dodge pickup. The impact killed the passenger of the vehicle, Brandon Massman and injured the driver, Wyatt Torticill who was taken to a hospital in Kearney. Both occupants were from Baltic, South Dakota at the time of the accident.

Deadly accident from October 23, 2018

It was also noted in the report that Skeels’ son had mentioned to police that his father may have been distracted right before the accident. Skeels’ attorney, Michael Borders, did briefly contest the factual basis noting that it was also mentioned by Skeels’ son that his father had not been on that road more than a couple times and was surprised by the stop sign.

Following the arguments, Judge Karin Noakes accepted the pleas and ordered that Skeels be back in court on March 19 at 10 AM for sentencing.

Timothy Murphy-Martinez, 30 of Fruita, CO, could face up to twenty years in prison when he appears for sentencing in March. Martinez agreed to a plea deal where the charge against him was reduced in exchange for his plea of no contest. He will now be back in court on March 19 at 10:15 AM facing one charge of criminal attempt (class IIA felony) where it was believed that Martinez was taking a significant step in the possession and distribution of methamphetamine.

Lavern Burnett, 65 of Broken Bow, appeared in court for his pretrial hearing where he took a plea deal and will now face one charge of 3rd-degree sexual assault of a child (class IIIA felony) after pleading no contest. While Burnett could face up to three years in prison if sentenced to the maximum, he will have to register on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry regardless of the sentence length.  Burnett is scheduled to be sentenced on April 9 at 10 AM.

Trey Hildebrandt, 27, has pled no contest to 3rd-degree domestic assault (class I misdemeanor) following a plea deal with County Attorney Bowers. In conjunction with the plea deal, six other alleged charges were dropped and a joint recommendation for sentencing was also agreed on from Hildebrandt’s attorney, Michael Borders, and County Attorney Bowers.

The recommendation is a two-year probation term for the domestic assault charge and a one-year probation term on a county court case both to be served concurrently. Judge Noakes ordered Hildebrandt to be back in court on March 9 at 10:15 AM for sentencing.

Jason Chestnutt, 39 of Lincoln, appeared in court on a probation violation after he was found guilty in Saunders County for domestic assault. With the conviction in Saunders County, Chestnutt violated the order of his probation to not break any laws. He will now appear for sentencing on the probation violation in Custer County District Court on February 20 at 10:15 AM.