After South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg hit what he thought was a large animal with his car over the weekend, confusion began to swirl. According to reports that began to circulate on Monday, Ravnsborg had actually hit and killed a man named Joseph Boever in the road accident. The 55-year-old was the only fatality. But many are wondering how it is that Ravnsborg didn't realize he had hit and man until the following day.
In a statement released on Monday, Ravnsborg claimed that on the way home from the Spink County Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday night at 9:15 p.m., he struck something he believed to be a deer. Upon calling 9-1-1 to report the accident, the Hyde County Sheriff came to the scene. But it was only after returning the next day that they discovered a body by the side of the rural stretch of U.S. Highway 14.
After the body was found, police identified Boever and learned that, according to relatives, he had crashed his truck in the area and was walking in the road. Now, the South Dakota Highway Patrol is more fully investigating the case alongside The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation. But the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, which is part of the attorney general's office, can’t be involved due to a conflict of interest.
Police have released little information other than reporting that an investigation is underway, and no autopsy report is available yet. “We will handle this as we would any other fatal crash,” the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Secretary Craig Price said in a news conference on Sunday. The news release from DPS on Monday stated, “South Dakota’s Highway Patrol continue to investigate the crash. All information remains preliminary at this point.”
In the wake of rumors, Ravnsborg gave a full account of his side of the story, though none of the information he’s provided has been confirmed by authorities, according to the Argus Leader. Ravnsborg explained that though he checked the ditch immediately after crashing into something on Saturday night and used his cell phone flashlight to see in the dark but that he didn’t see anything at the time. When Sheriff Volek arrived at the scene, he surveyed damage to the car and filled out paperwork.
Ravnsborg's, however, is no stranger to roadside violations. According to the Argus Leader, he had six speeding infractions between 2014 and 2018, which is the year he was elected. He was also given violations for not wearing a seat belt or having a proper exhaust in 2017. The AG pleaded guilty to all infractions and paid several fines. Still, he insists that he was completely unaware that he had hit a person rather than an animal.
“At no time did either of us suspect that I had been involved in an accident with a person,” Ravnsborg stated in his release. After the sheriff offered him his own car to drive home, they decided to return in the morning. It wasn’t until then that the grim reality that he had killed a person set in. The death was immediately reported to the sheriff, according to Ravnsborg.
But Boever's relatives tell a different story. According to CBS News, Boever's family members said they felt frustrated and suspicious with the investigation, especially considering that it took 22 hours for his body to be properly identified. When Boever wasn’t found at home on Sunday, his family grew worried and contacted the Sheriff, but they were not allowed to identify his body until 8 p.m. on Sunday.
“Why did my husband lie in a ditch for 22 hours? Why were no alarms sounded off over here when the accident happened? I mean, we have no answers yet. And right now I’m just raw and numb. I just lost the man of my life,” his wife Jennifer Boever said.
His cousin, Victor Nemec, who was the last person to see him before he was killed, said that investigators have not yet questioned him about what happened. This, coupled with the lack of sirens on Saturday night, has all made them weary of the process, as well as Ravnsborg’s story. “A human doesn't look like a deer. The whole thing stinks to me,” Nemec said.
As Boever's family grieves and waits, Ravnsborg says he’s been cooperating fully with the investigation and has agreed to a search of his cell phones — and that he’s also given investigators the names of anyone who can confirm he wasn’t drinking at the event. “I’m deeply saddened by the tragic nature of these events and my heartfelt condolences go out to the Boever family,” he said. The AG says won’t be answering further questions from the public until the investigation has been completed.