COLOME, S.D. – Former South Dakota police officer Russell Bertram claimed his young fiancee was shot and killed in a tragic 2009 hunting accident.
But state prosecutors are saying the truth was far more sinister. The 64-year old Bertram is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 26-year-old Leonila (lee-oh-NEE'-luh) Stickney and will stand trial next month.
Prosecutors suggest in court filings that the case involves money, jealousy and tangled relationships.
Bertram says he was putting his shotgun back into his truck in October 2009 when it went off accidentally, striking Stickney in the abdomen.
But several months later, the victim's estranged husband, found out that a life insurance company was processing a claim that Bertram had taken out on his fiancee and contacted the South Dakota attorney general's office's criminal division.