Eric Peet, age 34, of Hot Springs, was originally charged with 14 felony sex charges against minors in 2020.
This article is being reprinted with permission from the Rapid CIty Journal
By Shalom Baer Gee
Rapid City Journal
RAPID CITY – A 34-year-old Hot Springs man who the state called a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” was sentenced in Pennington County Court Tuesday to 18 years in prison for abusing two children for five years in Fall River County.
Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Connolly sentenced Eric Peet to two consecutive nine-year sentences for each count of child abuse. Assistant Attorney General Scott Roetzel asked the judge to give Peet the maximum of 10 years for each count.
When Peet was indicted in June 2020 in Fall River County, he faced 14 different counts accusing him of sexually and physically abusing three children for a five-year period between June 2014 and October 2019.
On July 18, he entered an Alford plea to two counts of child abuse against two of the boys during that time frame. By entering an Alford plea, Peet agreed to enter a guilty plea on the charges while still maintaining his innocence.
The state agreed to drop the remaining 12 counts in exchange for the plea, although Roetzel referenced the allegations of sexual abuse at sentencing when he asked for the maximum sentence of 10 years on each count.
In addition to using the wolf in sheep’s clothing comparison, Roetzel said Peet “inserted himself in situations to be a savior.”
He said Peet took the boys to movies, bought them food and gave them gifts before he escalated his behavior to abuse.
“His motivation was more dark and insidious,” Roetzel said.
The parents of the victims and one of the minors listed in the original indictment spoke at the sentencing.
After sitting down behind a mic at the state’s counsel table, the father sighed and removed a piece of folded paper from his pocket.
“He has taken something from them they’ll never get back,” the father said. “He has taken their childhood.”
He asked the judge to not only sentence Peet to the maximum, but also not to give him any time served for the 1,065 days he’d spent in jail ahead of sentencing.
“What he’s pleading to is 100 times less than what he deserves, and my boys deserve to live a life of freedom.” he said.
The victims’ mother said Peet “harmed my children beyond words or expression.
He has destroyed their innocence and taken away their childhood and impacted my family like no other,” she said.
The teen who spoke at the hearing said, “I don’t feel like it’s safe for others either.”
Roetzel echoed that sentiment.
“The only place for him at this moment is the South Dakota State Penitentiary,” Roetzel said.
The prosecutor also referenced a 2018 protection order against Peet for stalking. Roetzel said the violation involved a family he worked with while working for the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Child Protective Services. Court records show he pleaded guilty to violating the order three times.
Peet’s defense attorney, Angela Colbath, told the judge the case is Peet’s first felony conviction. She said the state’s characterization that Peet has a long history of abusing children is “not supported.”
She addressed the protection order from 2018 and explained Peet raised concerns about children in a foster family during his work in child protective services, and the parent “found it harassing.”
She said there were no sexual allegations or allegations of grooming in the case. She said Peet knew the family prior to his professional work with them and they “clearly had a falling out.”
“Eric has maintained his innocence since day one,” she said.
Colbath asked the court to give Peet a suspended sentence and put him on probation. She said his family left Hot Springs and now lives out of state, and he would be able to stay with them.
Peet did not speak at the hearing. He is held at the Pennington County Jail awaiting transportation to the state prison in Sioux Falls.