Texas man gets 30-year sentence in ‘brutal’ beating death on Yankton Sioux land
Kathy Cournoyer shows photos of her son, George Cournoyer Jr., who was beaten and left for dead in December of 2020 in his Wagner home. Alexis Delarosa was sentenced on July 20, 2023, to more than 30 years in prison for second-degree murder in the death of Cournoyer. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)
SIOUX FALLS — A judge handed down a 30-year sentence Thursday morning in an Indian Country homicide she described as among the most brutal she’d seen in more than two decades on the federal bench.
Alexis Delarosa, 33, helped beat George “Bug” Cournoyer Jr. to death with a hammer and baseball bat in December of 2020 after Delarosa and his co-defendant got the upper hand during a fight inside the victim’s Wagner home.
An autopsy of the 41-year-old victim revealed 61 distinct injuries inflicted by Delarosa and co-defendant Justine Tuttle, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Hoffman said Thursday morning. Hoffman asked Judge Karen Schreier for a sentence higher than the 24 to 30 years recommended for Delarosa under federal sentencing guidelines.
The crime was particularly brutal, said Hoffman, who described the hammer assault as a form or torture and noted that Delarosa ignored Cournoyer’s pleas to “stop, bro, stop!”
The pair left the home and drove away with Cournoyer’s laptop and cell phone, Hoffman said.
“Not only did they not call for help, they left Bug with no way to call for help,” she said.
My son is gone, and his daughter has to grow up without him.
– Kathy Cournoyer
Delarosa’s criminal history also played into Hoffman’s argument for a longer sentence. He held a knife to a victim’s throat in Yankton in 2017, Hoffman said, and he’d threatened to kill another person in a Dallas, Texas, robbery after that.
“His criminal history encompasses his entire adulthood,” Hoffman said.
Defense lawyer Amber Eggert asked Schreier to stay within the guidelines and avoid imposing the five additional years the government wanted for her client.
Delarosa and Cournoyer were friends, she said. The fight began over Cournoyer’s behavior toward Tuttle, Eggert said Thursday, and the victim was an active participant. Tuttle and Delarosa continued to assault the victim after it became clear he was losing the fight, but Eggert said the pair had come to Cournoyer’s home to take drugs, not to kill.
“This was a fight,” Eggert said. “An unfortunate fight.”
She also said the co-defendants believed that Cournoyer would survive as they left. Delarosa, a Texas native, and Tuttle, who lived in Nebraska, were captured nine months after the crime.
Delarosa apologized to the victim’s family in a written statement he read aloud in court. He said he wished he could “turn back time” so he could handle the situation differently, and that he’ll be haunted by the memory of what he’d done to his friend for the rest of his life.
“If I could switch places with him, I would,” Delarosa said.
The victim’s mother, Kathy Cournoyer, was one of about a half dozen friends and family members in attendance on Thursday. She asked Schreier to impose the stiffest possible sentence for a crime that will impact her family’s life forever, especially her 11-year-old granddaughter.
“My son is gone, and his daughter has to grow up without him,” Kathy Cournoyer said.
Schreier declined to depart from the sentencing guidelines, pointing out that Delarosa’s criminal history already put him at the top end of the sentencing range for the crime of second-degree murder.
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
She imposed the highest sentence possible within that range, 365 months, in part because of those prior crimes. She also described the homicide as “one of the more brutal” she’d seen in her time as a judge. She was appointed to the bench in 1999.
She told Delarosa that his anger issues made him a danger to the public, and that his actions toward a supposed friend show as much.
“This was truly unforgiving conduct from you,” Schreier said.
By staying within the guideline range, Schreier ensured Delarosa will lose most avenues for appeal. In his plea agreement, he gave up the right to appeal as long as his sentence stayed within the guideline range.
Tuttle was sentenced earlier this year to more than six years in federal prison in a plea deal that saw her admit to two counts of aggravated assault.
After the hearing, Kathy Cournoyer said she felt “relieved,” although she’d hoped for a life sentence after a long wait for justice.
George Cournoyer Jr. was a big fan of softball, playing third base, first base and catcher for Wagner-area teams like the Rez Sox and The Warriors. His mother said the community had hoped to put on a softball tournament in June in his memory, but the family decided to wait a year because of delays in the case.
“It just took a toll on our family,” Kathy Cournoyer said of the delays. “We’d be getting all geared up to come up here and face this man, then it would be reset.”
Her granddaughter spent months in counseling to cope with the loss of a loving and attentive father, she said. She hopes her son can be remembered for his contributions to his family and community.
“He was just a wonderful son and dad,” she said. “He loved his daughter unconditionally. She was his pride and joy.”
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.