On Trial: The death of Chester Allen Poage - A KOTA News Extra - KOTA Territory News

On Trial: The death of Chester Allen Poage - A KOTA News Extra


Cindy Davis

April 22nd, 2000, a woman who owns land near Higgins Gulch, spots something in Spearfish creek. A closer look reveals a teenagers shriveled body, dressed only in a white tank top, socks and shoes.

An autopsy identifies the victim as 19-year old Chester Allen Poage of Spearfish. A forensic pathologist from the Clinical Laboritory in Rapid City discovers numerous head injuries and stab wounds to the jugular vein and ear.

"It was in the newspaper that they had found this body in Higgins Gulch; it was on the front page of the local paper. And when that happened, Danny Birkhardt, who had heard Darrell Hoadley boast about killing and dumping his body in Higgins Gulch... for the first time, it dawned on him that Hoadley wasn't making up a story. This was true," said Lawrence County State's Attorney John Fitzgerald. 

Danny Birkhardt tells his father and the story is retold to investigators with the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department and the Division of Criminal Investigation.

"The first memory I recall was being told that they had a suspect and that they were going to go to where he was working in Deadwood and see if they could get a statement through an informant on tape," said Fitzgerald. 

Wired with a tape recording device, Birkhardt goes to the Comfort Inn in Deadwood, where Hoadley was working a construction job.

Fitzgerald reads from a transcripts, "this is what Mr. Hoadley says when he doesn't know that the police are listening, he says, "I'm not worried about the DNA 'cause my hair was tied back and like we got rid of the knife, all his shit, everything that had any blood on it was in this bucket and we like threw it away in Kansas somewhere."

"That tape recording was not of the best quality, but the content was absolutely crucial to the case," Fitzgerald added. 

Investigators have what they need and Hoadley is brought to the station for questioning, which is video taped by Lawrence County investigators.

"And I was like, what the fuck are you guys doing dude? And they were like, we're going to fucking kill this dude and take his shit. He's got some nice shit in his house. I was like, you guys are fucking crazy, what the fuck are you guys thinking?"

"So he went from boasting and talking about the crime to down playing his role almost immediately when he came into police custody. Complete change," Fitzgerald said, describing Hoadley's attitude on the tape. 

Hoadley claims he was forced to participate in Poage's kidnapping and murder by his two friends, Briley Piper and Elijah Page.

"That's really what started the ball rolling," said Hoadley's attorney Joe Kosel. 

Kosel was working for the Public Defenders Office at the time.

"My initial impression was that this was a very scared young man. I was shocked at how young he was. I think he was shocked to be in the position he was in. It was basically a situation, you're with us or you are with him, referring to Allen."

Investigators would soon find out about the last torturous hours of Chester Allen Poage's life and the role each young man played. The motive would shock and disgust the entire community. That's Tuesday night at ten.

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