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Slain woman's mother in dispute over victim compensation money

CHAMBERLAIN, S.D. -- The mother of a slain Mitchell woman is engaged in a dispute with state government officials over compensation from a fund set up for crime victims.

In April, Agnes Clement of Chamberlain applied for financial assistance from the Crime Victims' Compensation Program. The program, which is administered by the state Department of Social Services, pays some crime victims a maximum of $15,000 to cover various expenses, such as medical bills or funeral expenses, incurred as a result of a crime.

The program found Clement may be eligible for some compensation, but has so far denied her any payment because of a $20,000 life insurance policy her slain daughter, Crystal Schulz, 26, of Mitchell, had at the time of her death.

In the four months since her daughter was killed, Clement has tried to cope with the emotional toll the death has had on her and her family.

"We all had a very close relationship," she said. "I still can't believe this happened."

Authorities say Schulz was killed March 11. Three days later, Clement found Schulz's body inside a shed at her farmstead in rural Chamberlain.

Kent Davidson, 36, faces multiple charges, including first-degree murder, in connection with Schulz's death. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges in April. Authorities say Davidson shot Schulz in the head with a shotgun and left her in the shed.

Besides the emotional stress, Clement has also been left to deal with expenses related to Schulz's death.

The majority of the money from Schulz's life insurance policy will be used to cover the cost of her funeral and a headstone, and the rest will be put toward other expenses related to the incident, Clement said.

"For me to ask for help, that shouldn't have been a problem," she said.

According to Kristen Keller, spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services, the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund approved funding for 236 people during the 2012 fiscal year, and the average amount paid per claim was $2,921.

"The Crime Victims' Compensation Program is a payer of last resort," Keller said in an email. "Payments can only be made if there is no other source of payment, including private health insurance, life insurance and other public programs."

Keller declined to discuss the specifics of Schulz's case.

Clement appealed the decision and, in a June 5 letter she provided to The Daily Republic newspaper, asks the program for $5,000 to acknowledge her daughter's death and pay for other bills, such as a travel and hotel expenses.

"I just would like South Dakota to acknowledge Crystal's death," she said in a recent interview.

Clement's appeal was not only denied because of her daughter's life insurance policy, but also because the program does not compensate victims or their families for pain and suffering, according to a June 24 letter from the state that Clement provided to The Daily Republic.

In a June 25 letter, the program notified Clement that it would consider paying for any mileage, lost wages and out-of-pocket counseling expenses she incurs as a result of the crime.

Her experience with the Crime Victims' Compensation Program has left Clement frustrated, angry and fed up with the program itself, she said.

"Why is this program around if they're not going to help people out?" she said.

Meanwhile, the court has authorized Davidson to spend up to $25,000 to hire two expert witnesses for the trial, according to court documents Clement provided to The Daily Republic. Davidson's trial is scheduled for January.

By allowing Davidson to spend that much money on expert witnesses, Clement feels the state is helping her daughter's alleged killer more than it is helping her family.

"I don't think anyone is really pulling for her rights," Clement said.

Clement also said she was only recently able to get Schulz's car and some other personal items back because they were being held as evidence.

Clement and her son, 17-year-old Austin Schulz, were left to clean the mess at the crime scene after the investigation because, Clement said, she was unaware she needed to request the scene be cleaned after law enforcement had finished with it.

"I thought it was just standard protocol that they would have it cleaned up before we got home," she said.

One of Schulz's greatest strengths was her patience, Clement said. It's a trait that Clement wishes she shared.

"I don't want all of it," she said of her daughter's trait. "Just a touch of it."