Federal District Court Denies Rhines’ Motion for Relief in Capital Case

Federal District Court Denies Rhines’ Motion for Relief in Capital Case

PIERRE, S.D. – Attorney General Marty Jackley announces the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota has denied Charles Russell Rhines’ motion for habeas corpus relief and to amend the judgment.  Rhines filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking to overturn his conviction and death sentence for the murder of 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer in Rapid City on March 8, 1992.

“The Federal Court’s ruling affirms that Charles Russell Rhines’ murder conviction and capital sentence for the horrific murder of Donnivan Shaeffer are constitutional. My thoughts and prayers are with the Schaeffer family, who have waited 24 years for justice in this case,” said Jackley.

A Pennington County jury convicted Rhines of first degree murder in 1993 and returned a sentence of death.  Rhines’ conviction and death sentence were affirmed on direct appeal by the South Dakota Supreme Court in 1996.  Rhines’ conviction and sentence were also affirmed on state habeas proceedings by the state trial court and South Dakota Supreme Court.

With the conclusion of his federal trial court habeas corpus proceedings, Rhines can file a notice of appeal within 30 days to the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and, ultimately, to the United States Supreme Court. Rhines must obtain permission from the federal court to pursue an appeal.


From the latter part of 1991 through February 1992, Charles Russell Rhines worked at the Dig ‘Em Donut Shop on West Main Street in Rapid City, South Dakota. In February 1992 Rhines was terminated from this job.

On March 8, 1992, the body of Donnivan Schaeffer, an employee of Dig ‘Em Donuts, was found in the storeroom of the donut shop on West Main Street. Schaeffer’s hands were bound, and he had been repeatedly stabbed. Approximately $3,300 in cash, coins, and checks was missing from the store.The State charged Rhines with third-degree burglary of the store and first-degree murder of Schaeffer. A jury convicted him of these crimes. The jury recommended a sentence of death for the first-degree murder conviction. The trial court entered a judgment and warrant of execution.