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Trumm v. Cleaver

Supreme Court of South Dakota

December 4, 2013

Terri TRUMM, Petitioner and Appellee,
v.
Kevan CLEAVER, Respondent and Appellant.

Considered on Briefs on Nov. 4, 2013.

Page 23

Craig K. Thompson, Vermillion, South Dakota, Attorney for petitioner and appellee.

Kevin J. Loftus of Kennedy Pier Knoff Loftus, LLP, Yankton, South Dakota, Attorneys for respondent and appellant.

ZINTER, Justice.

[¶ 1.] Terri Trumm petitioned for a domestic abuse protection order against Kevan Cleaver under SDCL chapter 25-10. Terri argued that Kevan's conduct amounted to stalking under SDCL 22-19A-1. She also argued that, by statutory definition, stalking under SDCL 22-19A-1 constituted domestic abuse under SDCL 25-10-1(1) if the stalking involved family or household members. The circuit court agreed and granted the protection order. On appeal, Kevan argues that the circuit court misinterpreted SDCL 25-10-1(1) and abused its discretion in granting the order. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶ 2.] Terri and Kevan are divorcing. They live in Vermillion, where Terri is the director of the Vermillion School District's alternative school. On February 11, 2013, a letter appearing to have been written by Terri was mailed to 131 people in Vermillion. Most of the intended recipients were employed by the Vermillion School District.

Page 24

Although the letter was intercepted by postal authorities before most of the people received it, the letter was delivered to eleven school district employees. Terri did not write the letter.

[¶ 3.] The letter disclosed embarrassing personal facts about Terri, some of which were misleading or false. Terri believed that Kevan wrote and mailed the letter. Based on this belief and other conduct by Kevan, Terri petitioned for a domestic abuse protection order under chapter 25-10.

[¶ 4.] At the hearing on the petition, Terri and Kevan gave conflicting testimony. Terri testified that only Kevan knew of the facts disclosed in the letter. Terri was convinced that Kevan wrote and mailed the letter because of his exclusive knowledge of those facts, the turmoil in their marriage, and because she deactivated his cellphone the day before the letter was mailed.

[¶ 5.] Kevan denied writing and mailing the letter. Kevan conceded that he had told two people about the facts contained in the letter. He testified that he did not know whether either of them wrote and mailed the letter.

[¶ 6.] Terri also sought the protection order because of other conduct she considered harassing. Terri testified that, close to the time of the letter, Kevan sent her odd text messages, along with an unexpected Valentine's Day card. She testified that she and Kevan rarely exchanged Valentine's Day cards, and considering the letter and pending divorce, she found the card harassing. ...


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