Donnivan Schaeffer remembered on day of Rhines execution

By  | 

After nearly a 27 year wait on death row, Charles Rhines was executed Monday evening at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

Rhines was sentenced to death in 1993 after stabbing and killing 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer.

Members of the Schaeffer family, as well as prosecutors of the case, were witnesses to Rhines' execution.

After the execution, some of them spoke at a press conference, their focus not Rhines, but on remembering Donnivan Schaeffer.

Donnivan's mother, Peggy Schaeffer, remembers her son as a goofy boy, with a contagious laugh.

She says she used Rhines' execution as a chance to remember Donnivan.

"Today is a big day," Peggy said at the press conference. "A day marked with sadness and grief, but also relief and justice. But above all, today is a day we talk about Donnivan, the boy who loved his family, his fiancée, and friends."

Sheila Jackon, Donnivan's fiancée at the time he was murdered, says the two had dated since 8th grade. She recalls a selfless man, who's hobbies included hunting and fishing.

"Even though Rhines has been executed... we will forever feel the pain and the emotions that Rhines has caused us," Jackson said.

Donnivan's father, Ed, thanked those who have supported the Schaeffer family through the whole process.

"Dennis Groff, Mark Vargo, Jay Miller, the prosecuting attorneys for Pennington County, we asked they do it, and do it right, so we never have to go back through this again," Ed Schaeffer said.

Mark Vargo, one of the prosecuting attorneys in the Rhines case, also spoke at the press conference.

"I was next to these people (Ed and Peggy) when this was terribly raw, I've been next to them off and on for 26 years now, and in all that time they bore this tragedy, and this loss, with grace that is simply inspiring," Vargo said.

Former Pennington County State's Attorney Dennis Groff says he's gone over Donnivan's last moments in his head many times over the years, putting himself in Donnivan's shoes, asking, who would come for me?

"Donnivan, a lot of people came for you, and for your family. Today, your family is finishing something you perhaps wanted that night, justice you could never have in that moment, but justice we have today," Groff said.

Peggy says the process has been hard, but she finds peace now that Rhines' time on Earth is over.

"I have no control over what happened at all, all I can do is deal with it. Now it's out of man's concern, now we leave it up to a higher power," Peggy Schaeffer said.

The Schaeffer family watched as Charles Rhines breathed his last breath Monday night.

He was pronounced dead at 7:39 p.m.