A Rapid City man shook his head late Thursday afternoon, Aug. 22, as he learned a jury decided that he wanted to kill his late wife's doctor.
William Thoman, 63, was found guilty of criminal solicitation for asking an acquaintance to aid and abet the murder of Dr. Mustafa Sahin last September. The jury found him guilty of asking the man to help him obtain a gun to commit the murder but not of soliciting a hitman.
The seven men and five women came to the unanimous verdict after deliberating for about four hours and listening to four days of arguments from attorneys and testimony from Sahin, acquaintance Ken Jones, law enforcement, two inmates at the Pennington County Jail and others.
Thoman did not testify. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 20, when Judge Jeff Connolly can send him to prison for up to 50 years.
Connolly ordered Thoman to remain in jail until then. He also awaits a second trial after being charged with two additional murder solicitation counts for allegedly asking the two inmates to help him find someone to kill Jones and Jane Wipf-Pfeifle, the judge originally assigned to the case.
Prosecutor Trevor Thielen said in his closing arguments Thursday morning that Thoman should be found guilty because he displayed a clear intent to kill the doctor when he asked Jones if he knew a hitman and where he could get an untraceable gun and silencer.
People may joke about killing someone with friends, but Thoman told Jones that he wanted to see Sahin die and look him in the eyes when it happened, said a second prosecutor, Kelsey Weber.
Dr. Sahin left his job at Regional Health and moved away from Rapid City due to the trauma he felt after police told him Thoman may be trying to kill him, Thielen said.
Jones testified that he felt like he was betraying his friend by reporting Thoman to police but that couldn't live with himself if the doctor was killed. One of the jail informants said Thoman was "dead serious" when he asked him about finding someone to kill Wipf-Pfeifle.
One of the inmates kept journal entries where he documented repeated comments Thoman made about wanting to kill Jones and Wipf-Pfeifle, Weber said. They aren't getting any rewards for their testimony, Thielen added.
It's "tragic" that Thoman lost his wife of nearly 40 years who was being treated for cancer, but the case isn't about that or Sahin's medical care, Weber said. Thoman and other "people have to be held responsible for their actions," she said.
Defense lawyer Ellery Grey asked the jury if they've ever regretted something they've said, such as telling a sibling they wanted them dead or joking about wanting to kill their mother-in-law.
The good news, he said, is "in America it's still not a crime just to say something," it's only illegal when there is criminal intent and Thoman had no intent to kill Sahin.
If Thoman really meant to kill the doctor would he have told multiple people about his plan, Grey argued. Wouldn't it have been "foolish" to recruit an acquaintance, someone who isn't a close friend, he added.
Thoman said in a recorded call with Jones that he knew his statements weren't healthy, but they gave him comfort, and later told police he was "just venting," Grey said.
Grey questioned the credibility of the inmates, saying one lied during the trial about cooperating with past criminal cases and that one inmate said he knew the other well, while the other said they weren't close at all.
Grey did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on the verdict.
Thoman was previously charged with attempted first-degree murder, but the prosecution dismissed the charge before the trial, according to Grey. Thielen declined to comment about why the charge was dismissed or the jury’s verdict.