Charles Rhines, South Dakota


 Updated: Monday, November 4, 2019 

Charles Rhines has been executed by the state of South Dakota.  Read more here.   

 Updated: Monday, November 4, 2019 

The Supreme Court of the United States has rejected all requests to halt the execution of Charles Rhines in South Dakota.   

 Updated: Monday, November 4, 2019 

The South Dakota Department of Corrections has announced that the start of the execution for Charles Rhines will likely be delayed. Charles has three appeals pending before the Supreme Court of the United States.  South Dakota will not begin the execution until the Supreme Court has ruled on the appeals.

 Updated: Monday, November 4, 2019 

Charles Russel Rhines is scheduled to be executed at 1:30 pm local time, on November 4, 2019, at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Sixty-three-year-old Charles is convicted of the murder of 22-year-old Donnivan Schaeffer in Rapid City, South Dakota on March 8, 1992. Charles has been on death row in South Dakota for the last 26 years.

Charles was born the last of four children. As a child, Charles was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and never received treatment for it. He did not graduate high school, as he dropped out to join the military and was eventually sent to South Korea. Charles did not stay in the military long, after which, he received a few prison sentences for robbery and burglary. Prior to his arrest, Charles worked various jobs in restaurants, salvage yards, and factories. Charles was also an employee of Dig ‘Em Donut shop until shortly before the murder.

On March 8, 1992, Charles Rhines broke into the Dig ‘Em Donut shop in Rapid City, South Dakota to burglarize it. Donnivan Shaeffer entered the store during the robbery to retrieve money and supplies for another store. Donnivan’s body was discovered inside the storeroom at the donut shop. Donnivan had his hands bound and had received multiple stab wounds. Approximately $3,300 was missing from the store.


On June 19, 1992, Charles Rhines was arrested in Seattle, Washington on burglary charges. After being read his Miranda rights, Rhines asked, “those two detectives from South Dakota are here, aren’t they?” Police did not question Rhines at that time, instead placing him in a holding cell.


Later that same day, two South Dakota law enforcement officers interrogated Rhines about the murder of Donnivan. During that interrogation, Rhines confessed to the robbery of Dig ‘Em Donut shop and the murder of Donnivan.


Rhines was convicted of robbery and murder and sentenced to death in January 1993. Since his conviction, Rhines has filed many appeals, arguing that he was not properly informed of his right to remain silent, arguing against the state’s execution protocol, and arguing that he was sentenced to death because he was a homosexual and the jury was prejudiced against his sexual orientation.


Attorneys for Charles Rhines had asked the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to meet with mental health experts to prepare a clemency petition, however the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that clemency is an to be addressed by South Dakota governor, Kristi Noem, who announced in May of this 2019, that she does not plan to halt Charles’ execution. In her announcement, Governor Noem citied the December 2018 decision of the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles to rejected clemency for Charles as one of her reasons.


A separate request made to the South Dakota Supreme Court to halt Charles' execution was also rejected.  Charles was arguing that the South Dakota's execution policies are invalid. Charles is also appealing by arguing that his right to choose his method of execution is being violated.  Death row inmates in South Dakota can choose to be executed based on the current law or the law when they were sentenced to death.  Charles has requested to be executed based on the laws when he was sentenced, which includes the use of an ultra-short-acting barbiturate.  South Dakota does not currently plan to use an ultra-short-acting barbiturate, and instead plans to use pentobarbital, which is classified as a short-acting barbiturate, but not ultra-short-acting. A hearing regarding the issues is scheduled for the end of the month.


A federal judge has refused to halt Charles' execution over concerns regarding the execution drug. Second Circuit Judge Jon Sogn ruled that Charles' complaint that pentobarbital, the drug planned for use in Charles' execution, is "virtually the same" as other drugs suggested by Charles' in his lawsuit.  Further, Judge Sogn ruled that he believed Charles' motive behind the request was not to actually change the execution drug, but rather delay the execution.  Charles also has an appeal pending with the Supreme Court of the United States.  He is alleging that jurors were bias against him because he was gay, and only sentenced him to death because they thought Charles would enjoy being in prison.


Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Donnivan Shaeffer. Please pray for strength for the family of Charles Rhines. Please pray that if Charles is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or show not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Please pray that Charles may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.



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