A teenager who pleaded guilty to the death of another Sioux Falls teen was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Friday.
Wilson Hughes, 17, was sentenced to 50 years in prison with 20 suspended.
In June, Hughes pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the death of Arick Strauser, who was found beaten in a Sioux Falls driveway on the night of July 22, 2016. The teen died early the next morning shortly after the attack. A Snapchat video of the fight had circulated online, which led police to arrest Hughes. Police said the fight involved more than half a dozen teenagers.
“A one-word insult resulted in the death of a child,” Judge Susan Sabers said during the sentencing. “You met a kid, didn’t like what he had to say and in 10 minutes he was dead.”
Sabers said she considered Hughes’ age, upbringing and lack of run-ins with law enforcement with the sentencing. Hughes’ lawyers main argument was his age, his upbringing and lack of previous run-ins with the law. Juvenile rehabilitation was brought up several times, saying juveniles who commit crimes often have a better shot of rehabilitating back into society.
Arick’s mother Aimee Strauser gave a statement to the court, addressing Hughes directly.
“My son had potential and you stole that from him,” she said. “I’m sure my son would have loved to have a life.”
Hughes also addressed the court, saying, “I wasn’t trying to be in a courtroom. I’ve put tears in the eyes of a lot of people. I put a hole in a lot of people’s hearts. All I can say is I’m sorry. If I could go back and change it, I would, but I can’t.”
More details about that July 2016 night emerged throughout the hearing. Hughes admitted to punching Arick Strauser 10 to 12 times, and then kicking him seven or so times after Strauser had fallen to the ground, unresponsive. Almost a dozen other teens and pre-teens were present, one taking video, another also kicking Strauser a few times.
The state in its closing argument released more information about the timeline of the night Arick Strauser died.
10 p.m.: Sioux Falls Fire Rescue saw Strauser and asked if he was OK. Medically, he was fine, but firefighters notified police to check on him.
10:20 p.m.: Surveillance video shows Strauser passing a group of three followed by a brief confrontation. Hughes can be seen blocking Strauser’s path.
10:22 p.m.: Strauser falls after being hit.
10:23 p.m.: Strauser starts walking away. Hughes follows.
10:24 p.m.: Strauser is on the ground and doesn’t get back up.
10:35 p.m.: A police car in the area asks the kids if they have seen Strauser. They point the officer in another direction.
Strauser wasn’t taken to the emergency room until 1:47 a.m. and was declared dead at 1:58 a.m. In the hours between, Hughes and the other teens returned multiple times to where Strauser laid. One urinated on his face and ran over him with a bike, according to the state’s closing argument.
The state quoted the autopsy in saying Strauser was punched and kicked so hard it basically “internally decapitated” him, with the blunt force separating his skull from his neck.
Hughes had even told adults he had been living with what had happened. The adults checked on Strauser, kicked his foot and told him, “Hey, buddy, you’ve got to get up. Police are looking for you,” and left without notifying authorities.
Hughes told authorities Strauser had called one of his friends “bitch.”
“A verbal insult from a stranger can not mean a death sentence for that stranger,” Sabers said as she sentenced Hughes. “You could have not punched him. You could have not kicked him. You could have called for help.”
Hughes’ lawyers said Hughes was acting in defense of the younger kid to whom they said Strauser directed an insult. They stated that before this case, Hughes had never been arrested and “recognizes his actions put him in this situation.”
While no amount of punishment is going to bring her son back, Aimee Strauser said she is happy with the sentence.
“Justice has been served for my son and that is all I wanted,” she said after the hearing. “Arick won.”