SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — A prison inmate serving 35 years for beating a South Dakota farmer to death in 1998 has died after an extended illness.
James Strahl, 46, of Dakota City, Nebraska, died Monday at a Sioux Falls hospital, the state Department of Corrections said Tuesday in a news release.
Strahl was initially convicted of killing William O'Hare in 1998, but under a plea deal that helped him avoid a second murder trial, he was sentenced in Union County in 2010 to 25 years for first-degree manslaughter and a consecutive 10-year sentence for grand theft.
Prosecutors have said Strahl and O'Hare met at an adult bookstore in Sioux City, Iowa, and had sex at O'Hare's home. Investigators believe Strahl killed O'Hare with a hammer when he refused to drive Strahl home.
Strahl's fingerprints were on a can of beer and a bag of potato chips found in O'Hare's house, and his DNA was on cigarette butts at the house, according to court documents. Strahl's DNA also was on a cigarette butt in O'Hare's station wagon, which was found a few blocks from where Strahl was living at the time, prosecutors have said.
Investigators talked to Strahl in 2000 after the fingerprints linked him to the crime scene, but the case went cold until advances in DNA technology led to his arrest in 2006. Strahl was convicted of murder in 2007 and received a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole.
Circuit Judge Steven Jensen later granted Strahl a new trial after it was determined a prosecution witness, Aloysius Black Crow, had lied in an unrelated criminal case.