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Sioux Falls man pleads guilty to manslaughter in 2022 death of girlfriend

Jackson Phillips faces life in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in connection to the 2022 death of his girlfriend.

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Jackson Phillips faces life in prison after pleading guilty to the 2022 strangulation death of his girlfriend.
Contributed / Minnehaha County Jail

CANTON — A Sioux Falls man pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Monday, April 17, in connection to the strangulation death of his girlfriend in early 2022.

In a Monday court appearance in Lincoln County, 23-year-old Jackson Phillips, of rural Sioux Falls, entered a guilty plea to one count of first-degree manslaughter. The Class C felony carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and fines of up to $50,000.

As part of the plea entry, Phillips will undergo a psychological evaluation at the county’s expense ahead of a sentencing hearing in June.

The conviction stems from March 1, 2022, when the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation was called to a home on South Dakota Highway 11, roughly two-thirds of a mile south of 69th Street, to assist the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation of the death of 20-year-old Randi Gerlach, of Sioux Falls.

According to court records, Philips had been charged in December 2021 with domestic aggravated assault and domestic simple assault in Minnehaha County, in which he was accused of strangling Gerlach. After spending a short time in jail, he was released on a personal recognizance bond.

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Following the criminal charges, court documents filed in Lincoln County indicate the two resumed their relationship, but “kept it hidden from some people.”

In a factual basis statement filed to the court Monday, Phillips said that on Feb. 20, 2022, he and Gerlach attended a party in Sioux Falls and were drinking alcohol. After he claims she began vomiting, he took her back to his parents’ home on Highway 11, where he had been living in the basement. On the drive, Phillips said the two began arguing.

Phillips wrote that on the next morning, Gerlach became worried about her meeting with a probation officer, and thought that “if he could render her unconscious, she would be sober and calm once she awoke.”

While strangling her, Phillips said Gerlach began resisting. He continued, causing her to lose consciousness and die.

Phillips admitted that he planned to dispose of Gerlach’s body, but was unable to lift it. The body remained in the basement for roughly one week, until a family member discovered it and reported it to law enforcement.

After submitting his recounting of the events to the court as part of his guilty plea, Phillips was ordered to remain in custody and have no contact with Gerlach’s family.

He’s next scheduled to appear in a Lincoln County courtroom for a sentencing hearing on June 30.

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