UPDATE: Women’s prison inmate pronounced dead in Bismarck

This story has been updated from one that ran on Friday, July 15.

A women convicted in the 1990 murder of a Dickinson woman died after being found unresponsive inside a New England correctional facility.

An inmate was found unresponsive at the prison in New England Tuesday morning. She was pronounced dead at CHI St. Alexius in Bismarck. (Herald File Photo)
An inmate was found unresponsive at the prison in New England Tuesday morning. She was pronounced dead at CHI St. Alexius in Bismarck. (Herald File Photo)

By COLE BENZ
Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

A women convicted in the 1990 murder of a Dickinson woman died after being found unresponsive inside a New England correctional facility.

Jayta Schmidt, 52, an inmate serving a life sentence for murder at the North Dakota State Women’s Correctional Center in New England, was pronounced dead July 15 at CHI St. Alexius medical center in Bismarck she was found unresponsive earlier that morning while inside the prison.

She was transported to Dickinson by ambulance before being airlifted to Bismarck, according to information released by the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

DWCRC Warden Rachelle Juntunen was unable to comment due to the ongoing investigation.

Documents filed on July 11, 2016 — four days before her passing — with the North Dakota Parole Board said Schmidt was denied release. The document cited “seriousness of the offense” as the reason for denial.

Schmidt was originally charged with murder, a Class AA felony, in the Feb. 7, 1990 death of Cindy Owen in Dickinson, according to court documents. The criminal complaint stated that Schmidt shot Owen multiple times with a handgun.

Her court case lasted most of 1990. The court found her guilty in January 1991. She was sentenced to life in prison.

The criminal judgment was signed Jan. 16, 1991 by Southwest District Judge Allan Schmalenberger, with Schmidt earning credit for time served beginning on Feb. 7, 1990.

According to court documents, she was immediately transported to the North Dakota State Prison by the Stark County Sheriff’s Department following the court proceedings.

Schmidt was scheduled to go in front of the parole board again in July 2031.

The case is being investigated by the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the State Medical Examiner. The Hettinger County Sheriff’s Office also assisted.

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