RAPID CITY, S.D. — The South Dakota attorney general reported hitting a deer Saturday night but actually hit and killed a man whose body wasn’t discovered until the next morning, according to the Department of Public Safety.
Gov. Kristi Noem said at a Sunday afternoon press conference in Sioux Falls that Jason Ravnsborg had been involved in a fatal crash around 10:30 p.m. Saturday on U.S. Highway 14 near the East River town of Highmore. The governor released no other details.
Ravnsborg, the 44-year-old Republican attorney general from Pierre, was driving a 2011 Ford Taurus westbound on the highway, the Public Safety Department said in its Monday press release. He reported around 10:30 p.m. that he hit a deer a mile west of Highmore.
The body of Joe Boever, a 55-year-old from Highmore, was discovered Sunday morning.
Public Safety Department spokesman Tony Mangan said Ravnsborg contacted the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office, but how he contacted the office — calling 911, the office, the sheriff — is under investigation. The Rapid city Journal has requested all 911 calls related to the crash.
Whether Ravnsborg was driving a state vehicle and stopped to look for the deer or check for damage to his car is also part of the investigation, as is who found Boever's body — and where and when it was found, Mangan said.
Officials also are investigating whether local law enforcement responded to the scene that night, he said.
South Dakota’s Division of Criminal Investigation, which is part of the Attorney General’s Office, will not be investigating the crash in order to avoid an appearance or actual conflict of interest, spokesman Tim Bormann said.
Inspectors from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation will be helping the State Highway Patrol instead.
The attorney general had been driving home to Pierre after attending the Spink County Lincoln Day Dinner in Redfield, Bormann said. The event was hosted at Rooster’s Bar and Grill from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., according to the website of the South Dakota Republican Party.
Ravnsborg was not hurt in the crash, Bormann said.
He said Sunday evening that Ravnsborg “drinks lightly” and doesn’t think he was drinking at the event.
Boever's cousins Nick Nemec, 62, and his brother Victor, 58, said they were called to identify Boever’s body around 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
The brothers, both farmers who live near Holabird, say they’re upset about how long it took for officials to ask them to identify the body.
Boever had no children and lived by himself after separating from his wife, Victor Nemec said. Boever had been helping him at the farm since he was between jobs.
“He was just a very soft spoken individual” and spent most of his time helping at Victor’s farm, said Nick Nemec, a former Democratic state lawmaker.
Victor said he received a call from Boever around 7:50 p.m. Saturday asking to be picked up on the highway because he had crashed his pickup into a ditch and hit a hay bale.
Victor said he arrived around 8:30 p.m. to find the damaged pickup and Boever, who said he had been on his way to visit him.
He drove his cousin back to his home, where they hung out for around 30 minutes.
Victor left after telling Boever he would help him retrieve his pickup the next morning.
“That’s the last I saw him,” Victor said.
Victor said he called his cousin several times Sunday morning, but Boever didn’t pick up, so he decided to drive over to his house around 9:30 a.m or 10 a.m.
He saw that Victor’s pickup was still in the ditch on the north side of the road as he was driving on U.S. 14 to Highmore. He also saw state troopers, sheriff's deputies, people from the local volunteer fire department and officials from the Department of Transportation. He also saw tarps on the ground.
Victor let himself into Boever’s house after his cousin didn’t answer his door.
“He was nowhere to be found. I even searched the basement," Victor said. “I was starting to get a suspicious feeling” since there was a crash and Boever was missing.
Victor called the Sheriff’s Office to say Boever was missing and asked if he was involved in the crash. He said the office asked him when he last saw Boever and told him to wait at Boever’s house until someone arrived to speak with him.
No one arrived so Victor kept calling the office until they told him midafternoon to return to his own house and wait for someone to meet him there.
Nick said his brother called him around 5 p.m. to say that Boever was missing.
We knew about the crash so “we suspected it’s our cousin,” Nick said.
Victor said he was “getting anxious” so he called 911 in the early evening to make an official missing persons report.
Victor said an investigator called around 7:30 p.m. to ask him to go to the funeral home in Highmore to identify his cousin's body.
— Contact Arielle Zionts at email@example.com.
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