Orange City, Iowa — As you may recall, in October of last year, Rochelle Sapp was sentenced in Sioux County District Court after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment resulting in death, and child endangerment – multiple acts, for the October 2013 death of Autumn Elgersma. Sapp agreed, pursuant to a Plea Agreement, to two consecutive 50 year prison sentences for the two child endangerment charges which totaled an indeterminate term of 100 years. Sapp also agreed not to ask a judge to reconsider her sentence. District Court Judge Edward Jacobson presided over Sapp’s case and sentencing hearing.
In October of this year, the Sioux County Attorney’s Office says Judge Jacobson unilaterally reconsidered part of the sentence without notifying the County Attorney, Attorney General, or the victim’s family. Instead of Sapp’s two 50-year sentences running consecutive, or back-to-back, the Judge cut the sentence in half by ordering they run concurrently, or at the same time, which totaled an indeterminate term of 50 years.
Sioux County Attorney, Thomas G. Kunstle, says he consulted with the victim’s family and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office to determine what, if anything, could be done to challenge the reconsideration.
Kunstle says there appears to be no authority to vacate the judge’s reconsideration. Even if the reconsideration were successfully vacated, it would only set aside the Plea Agreement, and the original case against Sapp, murder in the first degree, child endangerment, and child endangerment – multiple acts, would recommence. Upon reinstatement, Judge Jacobson would remain assigned to the case. The reconsideration was unprecedented in the State of Iowa in a case involving a victim and, unfortunately, says Kunstle, erodes the public’s confidence in the legal system and undermines any closure for the victims.
Kunstle says he has decided, after careful consideration of all available options, that no appeal will be filed. He says given the lack of desirable outcomes, the victim’s family has expressed their support for his decision. While the reconsideration will reduce the number of years Sapp is supervised within the community after paroled, Kunstle says the reconsideration may not have a significant impact on the actual number of years served within the Iowa prison system. According to Kunstle, the victim’s family plans to attend all future parole hearings so the Iowa Parole Board is fully aware of the impact this tragic crime has had on the family and the community.