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Man gets probation, jail time in vehicular homicide case

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Man gets probation, jail time in vehicular homicide case

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HARTINGTON  — A Yankton, S.D. man was sentenced in Cedar County District Court Monday to 180 days in jail and given the maximum probation sentence of five years by District Court Judge Paul Vaughn.

Derek J. Nelson, 27, pleaded “no contest” in September to vehicular homicide and giving false statements to a law enforcement officer.

Nelson was handcuffed after Monday’s court hearing and led to the Cedar County jail where he will serve 165 days of incarceration. The final 15 days will be served over the next five years. 

Judge Vaughn ordered that for the next five years, he report to jail on his birthday and again on the victim’s birthday. 

The charges stem from a June 29, 2017, four-wheeler accident in northern Cedar County in which Jessi Anderson, 21, Yankton, was killed.

Judge Vaughn heard testimony from just one person — the victim’s father — during the 55-minute hearing in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Courthouse.

Lance Anderson, Yankton, said his daughter and the rest of his family had thought Nelson was a good and decent man.

“She was thinking the guy she was with that night was a good guy — a guy she could trust,” Anderson said. “His actions since that night have shown he is not that guy.”

Anderson detailed how Nelson acted the morning after the accident, and the lies he told concerning his involvement in the accident.

Nelson had originally said he did not know where Jessi was because she had gone four-wheeling with “some Nebraska guys.” 

He later said he drove her from the bar they were at but had lost track of her.

“Derrick gave four different versions of what happened,” Anderson said. “He lied to my wife. He lied to his sister. He lied to his dad, and then he lied to the Cedar County Sheriff’s office.”

Anderson said he was very disappointed that it took over a year to get to the truth about what happened to his daughter and how she died.

The couple went to two bars that night, then they went to Derick’s house. At 3:30 a.m., they left to go to his dad’s house in Nebraska. A Snapchat video then showed them on a four-wheeler. 

Nelson later said the four-wheeler crashed when he came upon an intersection too fast. Jessi was thrown off the vehicle and hit a pole, breaking her neck.

“This is where Derrick had to make a decision,” Anderson said. “Did he help her, or did he try and save himself. He got the four-wheeler out of the ditch and 12 minutes later he was back at his dad’s house.”

Anderson said the next day Nelson was playing baseball with his friends and acting as if nothing had happened, “as if this was nothing more than an inconvenience in his life,” Anderson said.

Jessi’s death has totally devastated the family, Anderson said.

“The day before the accident she was fitted in her bridesmaid’s dress for her brother’s wedding. She was buried in that bridesmaid’s dress,” her father said during his emotion-filled testimony.

Cedar County Attorney Ed Matney said this case would not have been resolved had it not been for the diligent efforts of Chief Deputy Chad Claussen for his dogged pursuit of the truth in this case.