I have been with the Argus Leader since graduating from Iowa State in May 2016. I started as a breaking news reporter, then moved into the law and order reporter role in 2018.
I’ve covered it all. From the night of a shooting to the moment an accused killer is sentenced and all the heartbreaking moments in between. I’ve been with a mother as she cried on her 15-year-old son’s gravestone months after he was killed in a drug-related car chase. I’ve seen a grandfather place his 2-year-old granddaughter’s ashes on a witness stand and look her killer in the eye.
I’ve also sat on the other side, speaking with men and women in the prison systems about how they got there, what they learned from their time behind the walls and what they’d like changed, both in their lives and the justice system.
I’ve seen the darkest parts of the justice system, witnessing and covering two lethal injections.
Though crime and the grief around it is often negative, I have also had the chance to meet people who are truly inspiring in their turmoil, who share their stories of hope and light with the community. I’ve even shared my own story a few times, letting the people of Sioux Falls and surrounding areas get to know me and my own struggles.
Recent work: Danielle Ferguson Argus Leader
Here are a few of my most memorable clips.
Excerpt: My group made it through one gate and stopped, waiting for the second gate to open, when one of the retired Department of Corrections officers who was with our group said, “This is where they almost escaped.”
It was then that the gravity of the situation hit me.
More: Reporter’s experience
Excerpt: Phauness Bell was 6 years old the first time she went to prison.
She passed through a metal detector, down a narrow hallway and waited behind a loud, thick door to meet her father in a Louisiana federal penitentiary.
She doesn’t remember speaking much with him. She mainly played board games while her grandma visited with a man she had heard over the phone, but never seen.
Excerpt: As a kid, I sensed something wasn’t right. His conversations and schedule revolved around his next dose. He would pawn his guns, pay late his rent or forego groceries to make room for money to purchase more pills. Our plans halted when he would pass out from taking too many, and I remember thinking how I didn’t like what happened when he took those white tablets.
Now, as a journalist covering crime and courts in our area, it’s an odd feeling to report on an issue I didn’t know I had experienced first-hand before the world considered it an epidemic. It’s an eerie retroactive understanding of what so many families, here in our town, down your street, are facing today.
More: Addiction hits home
I had the opportunity to intern at the Argus Leader while in college the summer of 2014.
Here’s what I wrote back then after my experience:
I covered a variety of stories, including breaking news, fun feature pieces, a few on-the-ground adventures, a few tragedies and more. I worked with wonderful people who answered my junior reporter-level questions and encouraged me to take on new challenges.
I loved heading into work every day not knowing what was to come. Each day I learned something different. Each story, its own adventure. Here are a few of my favorites from the summer.
*Photo credits: Argus Leader Media
Christopher Duke was shaking like a horse.
Just moments before Duke was about to give his 3-year-old son, Brayden, the birthday surprise he would never forget, the U.S. Navy corpsman was anxiously pacing behind closed doors.
“I am so nervous,” Duke said over and over again.
Duke is serving his second deployment in Afghanistan, this time for 12 months. When he was told he was going to be on leave, he called his wife, Sondra Duke, and said he wanted to come home for Brayden’s fourth birthday on June 8.
“They’re going to poop their pants when they see my face,” Christopher said with a chuckle.
Sondra set up the surprise at the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History. Brayden’s birthday theme was Batman. Duke dressed in the full costume, cape and mask included, to bring Brayden exactly what he wanted for his birthday: Batman and Daddy.
Joseph Allen Cavallaro, who finished third grade this spring at Garretson Elementary School, was last seen midday Friday. A search that at one point Friday involved neighbors going house to house ended Saturday morning when divers recovered his body beneath the bridge at the Jesse James Pontoon docking ramp on the north side of town.
Marian Lumpkin, his grandmother, said Joseph had recently discovered the park and had been there the day before to play with his sister, Abby, 10.
“Joey loved the outdoors. He just liked to explore,” his grandmother said.
A 43-year-old woman died Sunday evening and two others were injured when a van drove through a parking lot and struck a tree at an event celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Salvation Army in Sioux Falls, according to police.
Police identified the driver of the van as Lois F. TwoBulls, 47, of Sioux Falls.
Leroy Rose, who was attending the event, watched the van zoom through the parking lot of the Salvation Army building at 800 N. Cliff Ave. Witnesses said the van was traveling at a high rate of speed. He said it crossed First Street, hit a tree by the former thrift store, bounced, and somehow became wedged between two trees.