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Press Release

Sisseton Man Sentenced for Voluntary Manslaughter in Connection With a 30-Year-Old Crime

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota

ABERDEEN - United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell announced today that U.S. District Judge Charles B. Kornmann has sentenced a Sisseton, South Dakota, man convicted of Voluntary Manslaughter. The sentencing took place on June 24, 2024. 

Jay Adams, age 58, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay a $50 special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund.   

Adams was indicted by a federal grand jury in April of 2023. He pleaded guilty in November of 2023.

In the early morning hours of September 4, 1992, in the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation, Adams killed a young person, in the heat of passion, by slamming the victim’s head on a hard concrete floor. Afterward, he placed her back on the bed and returned to his bedroom. Adams did not seek medical attention for the victim and later the same day discovered she had died. Adams feigned ignorance as to the cause of the victim’s injury. An initial investigation failed to identify Adams as the assailant and the case remained unsolved for over 30 years.

In early 2023, a witness to the crime came forward and identified Adams as being responsible for the death of the victim in 1992. Law enforcement officers from the Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribal Police Department and the FBI continued the investigation. Prior to indictment in April of 2023, investigators conducted interviews of other individuals associated with Adams and consulted with a pathologist to review the 1992 autopsy performed on the victim. The medical evidence corroborated Adams eventual statement related to his guilty plea that he injured the child, which caused blunt force trauma and caused the child’s death.

“Tragically this matter took thirty years to resolve,” said U.S. Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell. “But the resolution nonetheless demonstrates law enforcement’s relentless commitment to cracking these cases so that perpetrators can be held to account. It is our hope the Defendant’s sentence offers some measure of closure to the victim’s family.”

This matter was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office because the Major Crimes Act, a federal statute, mandates that certain violent crimes alleged to have occurred in Indian Country be prosecuted in Federal court as opposed to State court.

This case is part of the Department of Justice’s newly created Missing or Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Regional Outreach Program, which aims to aid in the prevention and response to missing or murdered Indigenous people through the resolution of MMIP cases and communication, coordination, and collaboration with federal, Tribal, state, and local partners.  The Department views this work as a priority for its law enforcement components. Through the MMIP Regional Outreach Program, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify MMIP cases and issues in Tribal communities and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. This prosecution upholds the Department’s mission to the unwavering pursuit of justice on behalf of victims and their families despite the passage of time.   

The investigation was conducted by the Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribal Police Department and the FBI. The case was prosecuted by MMIP Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Great Plains Region Troy R. Morley. 

Adams was immediately remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Updated June 27, 2024

Indian Country Law and Justice
Violent Crime