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Man sentenced to life in prison for Spirit Lake homicide

Dallas Thundershield

FARGO — A 36-year-old man has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison for fatally stabbing one man and critically injuring another on the Spirit Lake reservation in April.

On Tuesday, Judge Ralph Erickson gave Dallas Wayne Thundershield, 36, the maximum sentence — life without parole — in federal court in Fargo for the April 9 attack that killed Richard DeMarce Sr., 52, of St. Michael, N.D., and seriously wounded his nephew Elvis DeMarce. Priscilla Bear, Thundershield's girlfriend at the time, also suffered injuries when Thundershield beat her after the incident.

In October, jurors found Thundershield guilty of murder, assault with intent to commit murder, assault with a dangerous weapon and assault resulting in substantial bodily injury. He was offered a plea deal ahead of the trial that would have dropped the murder charge to first-degree manslaughter, but he rejected it after seeing he would be sentenced to 28 years in prison.

When asked if he had anything to say during the hearing Tuesday, Thundershield only said that he planned to appeal the conviction.

Court documents and witnesses detailed the events of that April night. Dispatchers received several calls around 9:10 p.m. saying someone had been stabbed on Bureau of Indian Affairs Highway 6 on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation. Responding officers found two men lying in the ditch along the road.

Bear told officers she was riding around the reservation about 6 p.m. with Thundershield and the DeMarce men in a red Chevrolet pickup. Court documents detail how Thundershield, Bear and Elvis DeMarce began fighting. With a knife in hand, Thundershield exited the vehicle and began kicking Elvis DeMarce, according to court documents. As Thundershield held the knife to DeMarce's neck, Richard DeMarce got out and fought Thundershield, Bear stated.

Prosecutors said at some point during the struggle Thundershield stabbed Richard DeMarce in the heart. Bear also testified she saw blood coming from the victim's chest.

Thundershield got back into the pickup, Bear said, repeatedly saying, "I have to kill them." He then turned the pickup around and struck Richard DeMarce with it, according to court documents. Bear stated Thundershield went back to where the men were lying and dragged Elvis DeMarce's "limp body across the road," court documents indicate.

Thundershield then left the scene with Bear before crashing the pickup into a tree near a Hamar, N.D., residence, Bear said. After the suspect abandoned the vehicle, Bear said she was assaulted by Thundershield the next day.

Thundershield was charged in federal court April 12.

Prosecutors called the attack "an outrageous night of violence," while the defense tried to cast doubt on Bear's testimony. Bear never saw Thundershield stab Richard DeMarce.

Thundershield was also sentenced to 20 years for assault with intent to commit murder, 10 years for assault with a dangerous weapon and five years for assault resulting in substantial bodily injury. All are the maximum terms, but they will run concurrent with the life sentence.

Thundershield also is likely to be ordered to be paid $150,000 in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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