Brent M. Hanson of Milbank was sentenced to life in prison without parole this morning and will spend the rest of his days in the South Dakota Penitentiary. Hanson, 57, appeared in Third Circuit Court in a nearly empty Grant County Courthouse courtroom in Milbank on Tuesday, September 13.
Hanson entered a new plea of guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in the 2021 deaths of his brother Clyde, Clyde’s wife Jessica, and their unborn child. Hanson declined to speak in court this morning. He was defended by Scott Bratland, his court-appointed attorney from Watertown.
In December, a grand jury had returned an indictment against Hanson which included six charges – three first-degree murder charges and three second-degree murder charges in the deaths of his three family members. Hanson pleaded not guilty on each of the six counts during his arraignment hearing in January. A tentative trial date was set for August 11 and had been postponed until October 6.
In the plea agreement, Hanson conceded to plead guilty to counts one, three, and five in the indictment. The trio includes only first-degree murder counts which implies premeditation. In return, the state agreed to not pursue the death penalty. Although the plea agreement saves Hanson from execution by lethal injection, Circuit Court Judge Dawn Elshere explained the sentences for each count are slated to run consecutively with no chance for parole. The three alternate counts of second-degree murder were dismissed. The plea deal also precludes the chance for an appeal.
As reported earlier, authorities alleged Brent Hanson bludgeoned his brother Clyde with a baseball bat on or about December 12 and lay in wait until the next day for Clyde’s wife, Jessica. Jessica, who was nine months pregnant, was discovered deceased on December 15. She and her unborn daughter had been killed by a machete.
According to Fletcher Peters of the Daily Beast in New York, where Jessica Hanson’s family resides, the family was blindsided and disappointed that Hanson was given the opportunity for a plea agreement. “We are heartbroken with the [Grant County] state’s attorney’s brash decision to enter into this plea agreement without the knowledge nor approval of the family,” Hanson’s family said in a statement. “We are displeased with the work of the states attorney as we had clearly stated to him that we wanted a trial for Jessica, Clyde, and Annika Hanson and made it clear to him that we were seeking justice in the form of the death penalty.”
Also according to the Daily Beast, after the plea deal had been set, Grant County States Attorney Jackson Schwandt reportedly informed Jessica’s family the decision was justifiable because the possibility of an on-the-fence juror not being in favor of the death penalty could result in a mistrial.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Ty Hanson, Jessica and Clyde Hanson’s son, the sole survivor of the attack.