SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Rodney Berget lives in a single cell on South Dakota's death row, rarely leaving the tiny room where he awaits execution for bludgeoning a prison guard to death with a pipe during an attempted escape.
For Berget's immediate relatives, his fate is somewhat familiar. He is the second member of the family to be sentenced to death. His older brother was convicted in 1987 of killing a man for his car. Roger Berget spent 13 years on Oklahoma's death row until his execution in 2000 at age 39.
The Bergets are not the first pair of siblings to be condemned. Records reveal at least three cases of brothers who conspired to commit crimes and both got the death penalty. But these two stand out because their crimes were separated by more than 600 miles and 25 years.
"To have it in different states in different crimes is some sort of commentary on the family there,'' said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks death penalty trends.
The siblings' journey from the poverty of their South Dakota childhood to stormy, crime-ridden adult lives shows the far-reaching effects of a damaged upbringing - and the years of havoc wrought by two men who developed what the courts called a wanton disregard for human life.
Rodney Berget is scheduled to die later this year, potentially ending the odyssey that began when the two boys were born into a family that already had four children.
A former prison principal described Rodney as a "throwaway kid'' who never had a chance at a productive life. A lawyer for Roger recalled him as an "ugly duckling'' with little family support.
The boys were born after the family moved from their failed farm in rural South Dakota to Aberdeen, a city about 20 miles away. Roger arrived in 1960. Rodney came along two years later.
The loss of the farm and the new city life seemed to strain the family and the couple's marriage. When the family moved to town, "things kind of fell apart,'' Bonnie Engelhart, the eldest Berget sibling, testified in 1987.
Benford Berget, away on business, was rarely around. When he was home, he drank and become physically abusive, lawyers for the brothers later said.
By the 1970s, the couple divorced, and Roger and Rodney started getting into trouble. Roger skipped school. Rodney started stealing. Soon, they were taking cars. Both went to prison for the first time as teens.
On an October night in 1985, Roger and a friend named Michael Smith decided to steal a car, spotted a man outside an Oklahoma City grocery store, abducted him, and then killed A year later, Berget pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to death on March 12, 1987.
On April 12, 2011, Rodney Berget and fellow inmate Eric Robert killed a South Dakota State Penitentiary guard and made it outside one gate but got caught. Both pleaded guilty.
Berget's execution is scheduled for September.