South Dakota Inmate Executed for 1992 Murder

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.-South Dakota has executed 63-year-old death row inmate Charles Rhines. In 1992, he fatally stabbed 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer, a doughnut shop employee in Rapid City. 

Rhines was supposed to be executed by lethal injection Monday at 1:30 p.m. However, due to three appeals that time was pushed back. He was executed 6 hours later after the U.S. Supreme Court denied all three appeals.

At 7:31 p.m. Rhines gave his last statement and the lethal injection began. It was completed at 7:36 p.m. and he was pronounced dead at 7:39 p.m. Witnesses say in Rhines last words before his execution, he addressed Donnivan’s parents. “Ed and Peggy Schaeffer, I forgive you for your anger and hatred towards me. I pray to God that he forgives you for your anger and hatred towards me,” said Rhines. He went on to say, “Thanks to my team, I love you all. Goodbye, let’s go.”

Earlier in the day, Rhines had his final meal at the prison. According to the South Dakota Department of Corrections, his last meal request included: Fried chicken, cantaloupe, Lefsa, strawberry and cherry yogurt, butter, black licorice, cookies and cream ice cream, root beer and coffee with cream and sugar. 

Witnesses say Rhines had a calm demeanor throughout the entire execution.

Current Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo has worked on Rhines case as an assistant state’s attorney and says after multiple appeals it’s finally over.

“They’ve [Schaffer family] been put through hoops that have nothing to do with protecting the integrity of the process or ensuring justice, but are just mechanisms of delay,” said Vargo. 

“And at every step of the way, their focus has been on Donnivan and on seeking a just result.”

Donnivan’s parents, Ed and Peggy, his brother and aunt along with Donnivan’s fiancé at the time of the murder, Sheila Pond Jackson and Sheila’s parents joined several media members in witnessing the execution. They spoke with media after the execution saying today was a day they’ve waited for for 27 years. 27 years too long. 

“Today was justice served for Donnivan,” said Jackson. 

“Donnivan firmly believed in the death penalty and I am very happy that this has taken place. Donnivan really believed in an eye for an eye.”

During the media briefing, Donnivan’s family spent most of their time talking about and remembering him. They said he loved to fish, play practical jokes and lend a helping hand.

“Remember him today. Talk about Donnivan. He is missed and he is loved and he will never be forgotten,” said Peggy Schaffer, Donnivan’s Mother.

Donnivan’s family says this closes the books on Rhines, but they will forever feel the pain he has caused.