Mission Man Sentenced for Child Abuse and Distribution of Methamphetamine; Mission Woman Sentenced for Child Abuse
United States Attorney Randolph J. Seiler announced that a Mission, South Dakota, man convicted of two counts of Child Abuse and one count of Distribution of Methamphetamine was sentenced on July 18, 2016, by U.S. District Judge Roberto A. Lange. Thereafter, Judge Lange also sentenced a Mission, South Dakota, woman for her role in the offense of Child Abuse.
Tyler Erickson, Sr., also known as TJ Erickson, age 33, was sentenced to a total of 20 years in prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release, and a special assessment of $300 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.
Rae Dawn Lunderman, age 28, was separately sentenced to 10 months and 15 days in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release, and a special assessment of $100 to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.
On December 9, 2014, Erickson and Lunderman were indicted by a federal grand jury for second degree murder, assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and two child abuse offenses. Lunderman was accused of being an aider and abettor to the offenses. Lunderman pled guilty to a Superseding Information charging Child Abuse on September 28, 2015. Erickson pled guilty to a three-count Superseding Information charging two counts of Child Abuse and one count of Distribution of Methamphetamine on March 30, 2016.
Between at least January 2013 and December 2014, Erickson was using and abusing drugs, including marijuana, methamphetamine and prescription pills. He was also involved in selling methamphetamine on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation to support his drug habit, as well as for profit. He was using methamphetamine on a daily basis and was often under the influence of methamphetamine. He was not sleeping regularly, staying up for days, and then crashing for long periods of time. Erickson was also acting aggressively towards those in his family. In the early summer of 2013, he was living with his girlfriend, Lunderman, and four of their children, but the family did not have consistently reliable housing. The family depended on various relatives for places to stay. By early July 2013, Erickson was reunited with two more biological children, five-year-old twins, who joined Erickson and Lunderman’s family.
As the summer progressed, Erickson’s behavior became more stressed and mean. He continued to act aggressively towards Lunderman, the children, and others, at times attempting to strike the children, and also threatening to harm Lunderman and the children. At some point between August 1 and August 10, 2013, Erickson admitted he slapped or hit one of his twin sons, who later died.
On August 10, 2013, that child was at his grandmother’s residence near Mission with his family, including Erickson, and the child had a large bruise on his abdomen and was ill. The child displayed increased irritability, progressive loss of activity, increased fussiness, and he had a bowel obstruction. Erickson did not take the child immediately to medical care, which increased the risk to the child. Eventually, at around 4:30 a.m. on August 11, 2013, the child vomited and collapsed, at which point Erickson attempted CPR and paramedics were summoned. Despite life-saving measures by ambulance personnel and medical professionals at the Rosebud I.H.S. Hospital, the child died.
The initial diagnosis was that a blood infection, or sepsis, had caused the death. An autopsy later revealed the child had died from blunt force trauma. The child had sustained trauma to his chest and abdomen, which included two lacerations of the liver, hemorrhaging around his kidney, and laceration of a portion of his intestine, along with other external bruising. As a result of the injuries, the child suffered blood accumulating in the space between the inner lining of the abdominal wall and the internal abdominal organs.
Based upon other circumstantial evidence, including other actions and threats to harm Lunderman and their children, the Government argued at sentencing that Erickson caused the death after stomping upon or kicking the child during a fit of anger. Erickson admitted he abused the child, but maintained he did not cause the fatal stomach injury, arguing the injuries were incurred as part of a fall off a vehicle.
Lunderman said that on August 12, 2013, the day after the child’s death, Erickson was at the same residence with his family when he physically intimidated and menaced the surviving twin child. She caught Erickson in the act of nearly stomping upon the surviving twin son, whom she shooed away from the area. Lunderman admitted she exposed all of the children to abuse by not alerting law enforcement authorities to the danger the children faced, as well as subjecting the children to danger by allowing them to be reared in an environment where drugs were rampant. Not until September 2014 did she properly intervene and remove the children from the situation. During their time together, Lunderman was also a victim of Erickson’s repeat domestic abuse.
The district court sentenced Erickson to 15 years in prison for child abuse of the deceased child, 2 years for child abuse of the surviving child, and 3 years for distributing methamphetamine. The Court ordered the sentences all served consecutively, for a total of 20 years.
This case was investigated by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Law Enforcement Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Clinical Laboratory of the Black Hills conducted the autopsy. The FBI sought assistance and review of the investigation by a Pennsylvania biomechanical engineer. The Minnehaha County Coroner/Medical Examiner at Sanford Health Pathology in Sioux Falls also provided consultation services in review of the investigation. Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Maher and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Albertson prosecuted the case.
Erickson was immediately turned over to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service to serve his sentence. Lunderman was given credit for time served and was released on court-ordered supervision.