SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg reported hitting a deer with his car on Saturday night but actually killed a pedestrian whose body was not found until the next day, state investigators said Monday.
Ravnsborg's office has said he immediately called 911 after the crash on a rural stretch of U.S. 14 and did not realize he had hit a man until his body was found.
The Department of Public Safety issued a statement Monday that said only that Ravnsborg told the Hyde County sheriff's office that he had hit a deer. Tony Mangan, a spokesman for the department, would not confirm whether Ravnsborg called 911, saying it is part of the ongoing investigation.
The pedestrian, identified as 55-year-old Joseph Boever, was not found until Sunday morning, according to the department. He had crashed his truck in that area earlier, according to relatives, and was apparently walking near the road toward it.
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem had revealed Sunday that Ravnsborg was involved in a fatal crash and tasked the Department of Public Safety with investigating, but neither she nor the agency had provided any details.
The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation is also participating in the investigation. The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, which would normally be involved, is part of the attorney general's office. It is standard practice to request that an outside agency to conduct an investigation when there may be a conflict of interest.
Ravnsborg issued a statement Sunday saying he was “shocked and filled with sorrow” but also had not provided details. His office said Monday that he had not been drinking before the crash.
Ravnsborg was driving from a Republican fundraiser in Redfield to his home some 110 miles away in Pierre, spokesman Tim Bormann said. Ravnsborg was uninjured.
It took investigators nearly 22 hours to identify Boever's body with a family member, leaving relatives frustrated and suspicious, cousin Victor Nemec said.
“A human doesn't look like a deer,” he said. “The whole thing stinks to me.”
Boever had crashed his truck into a hay bale near the road earlier Saturday evening, according to Nemec. Boever told his cousin that he had been reaching for some tobacco.
Nemec had given Boever a ride home, which was about 1.5 miles away, and made plans to make repairs Sunday. He left Boever after 9 p.m. The crash that killed him happened around 10:30 p.m. Nemec said “there was no indication whatsoever” that his cousin had been drinking.
Ravnsborg has received six traffic tickets for speeding in South Dakota over the last six years. He also received tickets for a seat belt violation and for driving a vehicle without a proper exhaust and muffler system.