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South Dakota executes prison guard’s killer

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A South Dakota inmate has been put to death for killing a prison guard by beating him with a pipe and covering his head in plastic wrap during a failed escape attempt.

Fifty-year-old Eric Robert received a lethal injection Monday night in South Dakota’s first execution since 2007. He was the first South Dakota inmate to die under the state’s new single-drug lethal injection method.

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Robert was put to death in the same prison where he killed guard Ronald ‘‘RJ’’ Johnson in April 2011.

Robert was serving an 80-year sentence on a kidnapping conviction when he and inmate Rodney Berget attacked Johnson, killing the prison guard on his 63d birthday.

Robert then put on Johnson’s pants, hat, and jacket and approached the prison’s west gate. With his head down, Robert pushed a cart loaded with two boxes.

Berget was hidden in one of the boxes, according to a report filed by a prison worker after the slaying.

As the men got closer to the gate — and freedom — guards became suspicious. When confronted, Robert beat one guard; other guards quickly arrived and detained both inmates.

Johnson’s body was found on the floor in a Pheasantland Industries building, where inmates worked on upholstery, signs, custom furniture, and other projects.

Robert pleaded guilty and asked for the death penalty, saying he would kill again if he wasn’t executed. Months later, Robert told a judge that his only regret was that he had not killed more guards.

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