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She was kidnapped, killed and set on fire. Here's how long 2 men will spend in prison for her murder.

Source: Yankton County Sheriff's Office; MEGA

Jul. 12 2021, Published 10:11 a.m. ET

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A 59-year-old woman in South Dakota was kidnapped after visiting her mom, killed and set on fire to cover up the crime, now two men will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

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Recently, Ramon Simpson and Joseph James were both sentenced by a federal judge after their convictions in connection to the death of Phyllis Hunhoff. Simpson was convicted of kidnapping resulting in death and conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

James had pleaded guilty to murder in February and was sentenced to life in prison on July 15. He accepted a plea deal in exchange for the death penalty and the charge of arson to be dropped.

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Federal prosecutors said on Nov. 4, 2018, Simpson and James, abducted Hunhoff as she left her mother’s house in Utica, South Dakota. She was on her way home to Yankton, South Dakota.

Simpson and James accosted Hunhoff and gained access to her car before she had the chance to drive away. Then, they drove her to Norfolk, Nebraska, where both men resided.

Hunhoff’s routine was to call her mother and inform her she had returned home to Yankton safely. However, her mom never got the call.

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Along the way, Simpson attempted to delete the location data on James’ phone. The ploy was to avoid anyone knowing their whereabouts that day. James then drove away with just Hunhoff in the car to an isolated location in Santee Sioux Indian Reservation in Knox County, Nebraska.

federal charges

Video surveillance camera caught James driving Honhoff’s car at a gas station at the Santee Sioux Indian Reservation, where he filled the car’s gas tank. Later, James was caught again on camera the second time at the gas station filling a soda bottle with gasoline.

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Prosecutors further stated James stabbed and strangled Hunhoff and lit her body and her car on fire to conceal any incriminating evidence.

Four days after the murder, Hunhoff’s body was found.

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Santee police later found James’ DNA on her clothing. They also confiscated the T-shirt James had worn on that day and found Hunhoff’s DNA on it.

“Your conduct has taken a life and altered the lives of others. I hope you remember the pain you caused for everyday of your sentence which will be for the rest of your life,” Judge Brian Buescher said to James before imposing a life sentence, according to Yankton Daily.

Prosecutors hoped the sentence of both men for the brutal and senseless murder would bring some comfort to the family.


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