Kidnapper, attempted rapist vows to walk free without parole supervision

Inmate, denied early release, still classified as ‘high-risk’ after 37 years behind bars

By: - March 18, 2023 12:30 am
Wayne Edmonds Jr. testifies before the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles on March 15, 2023, at the Jameson Annex of the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Wayne Edmonds Jr. testifies before the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles on March 15, 2023, at the Jameson Annex of the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

SIOUX FALLS — An inmate who abducted and tried to rape a 12-year-old Wasta girl in 1984 told the Board of Pardons and Paroles this week that he’d rather walk free in four years than ask for mercy and supervised release again.

Wayne Edmonds Jr., 62, was sentenced to 75 years for kidnapping and seven and a half years for attempted rape by a Pennington County judge in 1985. Because he was sentenced under the pre-1995 “good time” parole system, the Mike Durfee State Prison inmate will be eligible for release with no supervision in 2027 based on his behavior in prison.

Wayne Edmonds Jr., as seen in 2005. (courtesy South Dakota Sex Offender Registry)
Wayne Edmonds Jr., as seen in 2005. (courtesy South Dakota Sex Offender Registry)

Edmonds came within one vote Wednesday of being released early on parole. The nine-person board was missing member Kurt Hall that day, and the vote on Edmonds was 4-4.

The board then voted unanimously to allow Edmonds to return and plead his case again in eight months. 

Inmates are not obligated to ask for parole, however.

“You’ve said your piece, now I’ll say mine,” Edmonds said after the vote. “This is my last parole hearing. You will not see me again. I will walk out on May 1, 2027.”

The vote points to the difficulty of parole board decisions for inmates who are classified, like Edmonds, as having a high-risk to re-offend. Board member Ken Albers of Canton saw parole and supervision as preferable to a release with no strings attached, but voted in favor of detainment for the sake of public safety — at least for now.

If Edmonds were to be released and monitored, Albers said, the board ought to make that call a few months or years down the line. 

“I would like to protect the public as long as possible,” Albers said prior to casting his vote.

The Albers comment was made on the assumption that Edmonds would return to the board again to request supervised release. Edmonds’ assertion that he would not do so came just moments later.

‘There shouldn’t be any more victims’

Edmonds told the board he learned to empathize with his victims through a combination of coursework in prison and his interest in police and court procedural shows on television.

The victim in the case that brought him to prison wasn’t the only one he left outside the walls, he said.

“Somewhere along the line I realized that there shouldn’t be any more victims,” Edmonds said. “I can’t see creating sadness like that in the world anymore.”

The reflection of Wayne Edmonds Jr. is seen as he prepares to testify before the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles on March 15, 2023, at the Jameson Annex of the South Dakota State Penitentiary. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)
The reflection of Wayne Edmonds Jr. is seen as he prepares to testify before the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles on March 15, 2023, at the Jameson Annex of the South Dakota State Penitentiary. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

He told the board “it’s long past time” for him to be released. He completed coursework in prison and became a certified braille transcriber. Before his incarceration, he was a mechanic. He wanted to be released to the Glory House in Sioux Falls and told the board he was confident he’d be able to find work.

“There are 10,000 jobs available,” he said. “I ought to be able to get one of them.”

Board Vice Chair Kirsten Aasen wanted to know if Edmonds understood what he was asking for. 

Were the board to vote in Edmonds’ favor, she explained, he would have been expected to register as a sex offender every six months, wear a GPS monitoring bracelet, find and maintain employment and participate in sex offender treatment outside the walls. Were he to misbehave on parole, he would return to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence and almost certainly die in prison.

“You, personally, are risking a lot by going out,” Aasen said. 

“I feel I’m worth the risk,” Edmonds said. “If I can’t be a responsible citizen on close monitoring, I deserve to be here.” 

High-risk classification considered

The vote was complicated by Edmonds’ history and the DOC’s assessment of his risk to the community. Edmonds argued that “there’s always going to be a risk” when inmates are released.

Board Chair Myron Rau pointed out, though, that Edmonds is classified as having a high risk to reoffend, even more than 37 years after his arrival in prison, according to DOC records reviewed by the board.

Rau said he understands that there’s always risk, but he told Edmonds that his risk profile is a step beyond that.

“We’re not just talking about risk here,” Rau said. “You’re a high-risk guy.”

Edmonds’ 1985 plea deal came after an attempt to fight extradition from Colorado – where his victim escaped as he slept in a vehicle – and a move by defense attorneys to place him at the Human Services Center to deal with his attraction to children, drug addiction issues and schizophrenic personality disorder, according to a Rapid City Journal article from Aug. 10, 1985.

I think the public risk this individual poses is minimized by allowing him to get out into the world on supervision.

– Kirsten Aasen, vice chair of the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles

Originally, he was set to be tried as a habitual offender, but his plea deal dropped that filing. The family accepted the plea deal in part because, according to news coverage at the time, Edmonds’ 12-year-old victim had “already been through hell.” The plea deal would keep her from testifying to a jury.

No one testified for or against Edmonds’ release on Wednesday.

Before earning a hearing from the full parole board, inmates need to pass through a two-member screening panel. Aasen was on that screening panel for Edmonds. Aasen argued in favor of parole because, she said, “if he’s let out on his flat date in 2027, we will have no ability to monitor him.”

“I think the public risk this individual poses is minimized by allowing him to get out into the world on supervision,” Aasen said.

Prosecutor recalls case

The Pennington County state’s attorney who prosecuted Edmonds’ case could not recall it from the inmate’s name alone when reached by South Dakota Searchlight on Thursday morning.

He did remember after hearing some of the details. There was a five-hour preliminary hearing after Edmonds’ extradition back to South Dakota, and several months of motions and hearings thereafter.

The G. Norton Jameson Annex at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, SD. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)
The G. Norton Jameson Annex at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, SD. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

“I remember this girl testifying,” said Dennis Groff. “I actually have a visual of her testifying,”

Groff was state’s attorney in Rapid City for 12 years and later served as a defense attorney. There are certain criminal cases that stuck with Groff, where he would argue that the perpetrator ought never be released. Groff led a successful death penalty case against now-deceased murderer Charles Rhines, for example.

Edmonds’ case is not one of them, he said. Absent the details of Edmonds’ behavior behind bars, Groff said he could not comment on the parole board vote. He did offer, however, that the decades of time between the crime and today — especially if an inmate completes treatment and behaves well in prison — are important considerations.

“There are compelling arguments for why you’d let him out, and there are compelling arguments for why you’d never let him out again,” Groff said.

After the vote Wednesday and Edmonds’ agitated pledge to hold out for unfettered freedom in 2027, the 62-year-old was escorted out of the room to prepare for a trip back to the prison in Springfield. At that point, Board Chair Rau said Edmonds’ reaction “shows that we made the right choice.” 

“That was a dumb thing to say,” Rau said. 

Board member Peter Lieberman, who also voted against parole, said he suspected that Edmonds might change his mind about parole eight months from now. 

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John Hult
John Hult

John is the senior reporter for South Dakota Searchlight. He has more than 15 years experience covering criminal justice, the environment and public affairs in South Dakota, including more than a decade at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

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