‘I Discovered the Body’: South Dakota’s Attorney General Offers New Crash Details

The attorney general of South Dakota, Jason R. Ravnsborg, released a new statement late Monday elaborating on what happened after the car he was driving struck and killed a man walking on a darkened highway over the weekend.

It contained his startling revelation that he had personally found the body of Joe Boever, 55, of Highmore, S.D., the morning after he and the local sheriff had failed to find what they had assumed was a deer late Saturday night.

“I discovered the body of Mr. Boever in the grass just off the roadway,” Mr. Ravnsborg wrote, adding that “it was apparent that he was dead.”

In the two days after the crash, the authorities and Mr. Ravnsborg’s office did not discuss in detail what happened immediately after the impact, including the condition of the vehicle, a 2011 Ford Taurus, or whether he had looked for what it had struck.

The new statement, released at 10 p.m. Monday, filled in more details, describing the search in the dark, noting that the car had been “severely damaged” and revealing that Mr. Ravnsborg had borrowed the sheriff’s personal car to get home, then returned the next morning with his chief of staff, Tim Bormann.

“I have not made a statement before now because the matter is being investigated,” Mr. Ravnsborg said, “and I want to respect that process and let it happen without any interference or appearance of impropriety on my part.” The attorney general oversees the Division of Criminal Investigation, which typically assists the Highway Patrol on investigations.

He said he decided to provide more information to “dispel some of the rumor and innuendo that are being spread in the wake of this tragedy.” His office and the local authorities declined to answer further questions about the new statement on Tuesday.

The matter is under investigation by the state Highway Patrol, which is being assisted by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, with oversight by Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, who took it over Sunday to avoid any conflicts of interest. She and Mr. Ravnsborg are Republicans.

Mr. Ravnsborg’s new statement tracked with the account already released by Ms. Noem and the authorities on Sunday and Monday. After leaving a Republican dinner in Redfield at 9:15 p.m. Saturday, he wrote, he was driving home alone on U.S. Highway 14 near Highmore, S.D., around 10:30 p.m. when he struck “something that I believed to be a large animal (likely a deer). I didn’t see what I hit and stopped my vehicle immediately to investigate. I immediately called 911.”

Looking around in the darkness, Mr. Ravnsborg wrote, “All I could see were pieces of my vehicle laying on and around the roadway.” He shone his phone flashlight at the ditch but could not see anything, he said.

The Hyde County sheriff, Mike Volek, arrived, surveyed the damage and filled out the paperwork to report the accident, the attorney general wrote. “At no time did either of us suspect that I had been involved in an accident with a person,” he said. The sheriff could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The car was too damaged to drive, he wrote, and the nearest tow service was more than an hour away, so Sheriff Volek “graciously offered to loan me his personal vehicle” to drive home to Pierre, S.D. He got there at midnight and made arrangements with his chief of staff to return the car the next morning, he said.

The next morning, as the men were driving to the sheriff’s house, they saw debris from the Taurus on the highway, so they “stopped to see if the animal that I thought I hit was in the ditch,” he wrote. After finding Mr. Boever in the grass, they went and told the sheriff, who sent the men back to Pierre, pending the investigation.

The attorney general also detailed in his statement the steps he had taken to cooperate: giving a face-to-face interview with investigators; agreeing to a blood draw and a search of both his cellphones; and providing a list of “anyone at the dinner who can confirm that I was not drinking alcohol at any time during the event.”

Adding that he was “deeply saddened by the tragic nature of these events,” he once again offered condolences to the dead man’s family.

Mr. Boever’s relatives could not be immediately reached Tuesday. His cousin, Nick Nemec, said Monday that he had worked stints as a nurse’s aide and at a grocery store, but was most recently employed helping a relative haul hay on his cattle farm. Mr. Nemec was not sure why his cousin was out walking by the highway on Saturday night, but he speculated that he may have decided to walk to his pickup, which was disabled after running into a ditch on the highway.

Mr. Ravnsborg has held the position of attorney general since 2018, when he was elected with just over 55 percent of the vote. He ran in the Republican primary for a United States Senate seat in 2014 but was not chosen as the nominee.

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