WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 08, 2014, 10:32 PM

Murder charges dropped against Brampton, ND man as part of plea agreement

Wahpeton, ND (WDAY TV) - Murder charges were dropped against Brampton, North Dakota man Thursday as part of a plea agreement in connection with a fatal hit and run death in Oakes.

By: Kerstin Kealy, WDAY

Wahpeton, ND (WDAY TV) - Murder charges were dropped against Brampton, North Dakota man Thursday as part of a plea agreement in connection with a fatal hit and run death in Oakes.

Instead 23-year-old Dakota Sutton plead guilty to felony manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident involving death and driving under the influence in the death of 28-year-old Reavis Dandridge.

Dandridge, a Navy veteran and father of four was hit and left for dead on a gravel road April of last year.

We talked to the Dandridge family in the Twin Cities last week; today they made the trip from the Twin Cities for today's hearing.

They spoke out about watching the judge approve a plea deal - they call a slap in the face.

A year's worth of anger, frustration and raw emotion were released today after a mother learned the man once accused of murdering her son would now face at the most 20 years in prison on charges of manslaughter.

Willie Dandridge/Mother of Reavis Dandridge: “He was a coward. The way my baby died out there and for them not to give him but 20 years, that's nothing. That's worse than a slap in the face. That's nothing.”

Greeted by heightened security at the law enforcement center, Willie Dandridge and her son Marco were late for today's plea hearing in Wahpeton.

Judge Brad Cruff would only delay the hearing for a half hour so the Dandridge family heard just the tail end of Sutton's guilty plea - but for them - it was enough.

Marco Morgan/Brother of Reavis Dandridge: “Watch him with the smirk and the smile and the carefree like he knows he's getting off. He knows he's coming home soon. He has no idea. No idea.”

Prosecutors say Sutton forced Dandridge out of his pick-up on a gravel road in Oakes, then ran Dandridge down and left him for dead - not getting him to the hospital for hours.

Sargent County Sheriff Travis Paeper who's spent countless hours investigating the case says he understands the family's frustration.

Travis Paeper/Sargent County Sheriff: “You get attached to the family and you start feeling their pain and their frustrations and you know they're not getting some of the answers they want and you know there are some answers that we'll never get because there's three people involved and one of them is dead.”

While the Dandridge family repeatedly thanked Paeper and his team - they called out prosecutor Lyle Bopp after the hearing - spending an hour questioning him in the courtroom.

They say he didn't do enough and called the plea deal an injustice.

They say they deserve a trial.

Willie Dandridge: “If you hear the things that were done - what happened to Reavis, there's no way that they wouldn't have found him guilty.”

Marco Morgan: “Reavis doesn't have a voice. We're his voice and I refuse to just lay down and take this. I will keep fighting. We will keep fighting.”

While Bopp says he understands the family's frustration, he stands by his decision.

Lyle Bopp/Prosecutor: “Do I sometimes like what I have to do, no. No I don't. But weighing all the facts and the alternatives that could've happened I do feel comfortable with this decision. I just have to deal with the public. They're the ones that elect me and I'm up for election this year.”

The Dandridge family says they plan to contact the state Attorney General's office about their case.

The judge ordered a pre sentence investigation; sentencing is expected in about a month.