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SD woman's trial for arson, trying to poison her husband has 'been a long wait' of more than 2 years

The former residence of Dawn Long is boarded up from a house fire sustained back in October 2015. Matt Gade / Forum News Service1 / 2
Dawn Elizabeth Long2 / 2

MITCHELL, S.D—The Mitchell, S.D., home Dawn Long allegedly attempted to burn rests empty, and Long has since found a new home in Davison County — but not where you might expect.

Long, 39, has made a home in Ethan, a few miles south of the city where authorities believe she tried to poison her husband and set their home ablaze more than two years ago. It was then she was also involved in a high-speed pursuit that ended in West River.

The case is stagnant, with a jury trial delayed repeatedly as Long remains free from the bonds of custody. But the case's resolution may soon be in sight.

On Monday, Long appeared in court at the Davison County Public Safety Center, represented by public defense attorneys E. Steeves Smith and Keith Goehring. More than a dozen items regarding new requests for evidence from the state led Judge Chris Giles to set another tentative trial date for July 16, 2018. Giles anticipates a two-week trial to address both the alleged attempted murder and arson charges.

On Dec. 7, 2015, Long was charged with two counts of reckless burning of her residence in Mitchell. Seven months later, Long was charged separately with first-degree attempted murder, suspected of poisoning her husband, Todd Long.

Todd Long mostly declined to comment at this time due to the ongoing proceedings. Though he said, "Myself, son, friends and family have had a long, frustrated road over this and are looking forward to it being over (as) enough damage has been done. We have been (through) enough and it's been a long wait."

Dawn Long pleaded not guilty to all three felony charges. Since she waived her right to a speedy trial in 2016, a jury trial has been postponed more than six times.

While Long waits for trial, there's been a change in circuit court judges and defense attorneys in connection with her matters.

The case stems from a residence fire started on the morning of Oct. 8, 2015.

No one was inside the home at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported. But Long, considered at the time a "person of interest," was hospitalized in Rapid City following an alleged car chase with law enforcement through Badlands National Park in western South Dakota.

According to court documents from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, state law enforcement used spikes to puncture the tires on Long's vehicle, but Long continued driving. The vehicle rolled off the road, and Long was ejected from the vehicle and taken to a hospital via helicopter.

At the motions hearing this week, the representing parties debated if video and audio files from law enforcement involved in the chase were still available. Both Smith and Goehring were searching through thick binders filled with paperwork, attempting to locate motions filed in 2016. Several requests for evidence needed before trial from Long's defense attorneys were related to the alleged car chase.

"I think the state is going to prove the fleeing after the incident on Oct. 8 is evidence of her guilt," Smith said in court.

But according to Giles, the vehicle pursuit has "minimal relevance" to the charges pending.

According to court documents, Long allegedly attempted to poison her husband in addition to the structure fire. Since the investigation started in 2015, a rum bottle with potentially fatal levels of caffeine inside was sent to National Medical Services lab, according to Assistant South Dakota Attorney General Katie Mallery. However, the original chemist who started the report has since left her position. State's attorneys are still waiting for a report on the exact concentration levels of caffeine.

Long continues to be released from custody, pending trial, on a personal recognizance bond and resides in Ethan. The Mitchell residence where the fire occurred is partially boarded up. Property records at the Davison County Courthouse contain old newspaper clippings about the attempted murder and arson case.

What used to be a property valued at more than $140,000 is now worth less than $9,000.

According to court documents, in April 2016, Dawn and Todd Long were sued by Planet Home Lending. The couple failed to make payments on their mortgage and owed $118,855.60 including interest.

If a jury finds Long guilty of attempted first-degree murder, a Class 2 felony, she faces the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. If found guilty of reckless burning, a Class 4 felony, she faces up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Long is scheduled to appear again at the Davison County Public Safety Center for a motions hearing in January. Giles said on Monday, it is too "premature" to set any further dates for any additional hearings.

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