Norfolk man sentenced to life in prison for fatal kidnapping

NORFOLK - A Norfolk man has been sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping that led to the death of a South Dakota woman.

According to the United States Attorney's Office, 51-year-old Ramon Simpson was sentenced Wednesday for kidnapping resulting in death and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. 

Simpson was convicted by a jury in March following a 7-day jury trial.

Authorities say on November 4th, 2018, Simpson and Joseph James were near Phyllis Hunhoff’s mother’s home near Yankton, South Dakota as she was leaving.

James and Simpson encountered Phyllis Hunhoff outside of the home and got into her car with her inside. 

The two kidnapped Phyllis Hunhoff and took her and her car to Norfolk, Nebraska.

When they arrived in Norfolk, James stayed in the car and Simpson got out with James’s cell phone.  James drove Phyllis Hunhoff’s car, with her inside, to the Santee Sioux Indian Reservation in Knox County, Nebraska. 

Simpson deleted communications and location data from James’s phone detailing their travels and activities.

Video from a gas station on the Santee Reservation showed James driving Hunhoff’s car and filling it up with gasoline.  

Later, James returned in the same car to the gas station and pumped gasoline into a soda bottle.  

Officials then say James then drove to an isolated area on the Santee Reservation where he set fire to Hunhoff’s body and her car to conceal evidence of the murder and kidnapping.  

James abandoned the body and car and left the area.

Phyllis Hunhoff’s body was found four days later.

James pleaded guilty to the crime on February 5, 2020, and on July 15, 2020, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

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