Thought Leader Forum to Discuss Crime Scene Investigation

As one of Minnehaha County’s longest-serving state’s attorneys, Dave Nelson’s career record as a prosecutor speaks for itself – during his five terms in office, he personally handled 100 jury trials, from which 28 inmates are currently serving life sentences in South Dakota prisons. In 2003, he was honored as South Dakota Prosecutor of the Year and by 2008, the year he announced his retirement, his office was prosecuting 10,000 cases annually, with charges ranging from littering to premeditated murder.

As Nelson, a 1973 graduate of Augustana, reflects on a career that spanned nearly three decades, memories of significant and historic cases certainly come to mind. Yet, he also marvels at the impact technology has had on the legal system, particularly the vital role DNA analysis now plays in criminal cases.

Nelson, 58, will discuss technology and the evolution of criminal prosecutions during the Augustana Thought Leader Forum at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10, at CJ Callaway’s Event Center. His presentation, “CSI Sioux Falls: The Investigation and Prosecution of the Criminal Case,” will dissect four criminal prosecutions involving the use of forensic or scientific evidence, such as blood stains, saliva and other bodily fluid. The cases range from 1989, when DNA was not considered, to recent cases when DNA analysis played a critical role in the jury’s verdict.

One such case was the murder of Mary Kay Ross, a Sioux Falls mother who was stabbed to death while her one-year-old child slept in a crib nearby. Four men were charged with conspiracies to commit Ross’ murder. Of those, three pled guilty to first degree murder and avoided facing the death penalty; another went to trial for conspiracy to commit first degree murder and is now serving a life sentence in the penitentiary without the possibility of parole.

“This case garnered a lot of interest from the community – primarily because the crime was so senseless; so horrific. A one-year-old child lost her mother.”

Today, in addition to running a private legal office, Nelson also serves on the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles, a nine-member group that reviews applications for parole or early release from state penitentiaries.

Reserved tickets are $20 and include lunch. Tickets are available at Tickets purchased at the door are $25. For more information, call 605.274.4404.

Kelly Sprecher
Director of Communications & Media Relations