Attorney General Marty Jackley has denied a media request to view the documents from the Richard Benda death investigation.
Richard Benda worked as the South Dakota Secretary of State Development and Tourism from 2006 to 2010. He was found dead of a gun-shot wound in a tree grove near Lake Andes in late October.
It was later learned Benda was being investigated for double-dipping on at least three state trips and improperly redirecting more than a half million dollars of a state grant to the South Dakota Regional Center after he left office and was working for the organization.
Jackley ruled Benda’s death was a suicide in November. Benda’s death certificate says he propped his shotgun against a tree and pulled the trigger with a stick and suffered a fatal gun-shot wound to the abdomen.
South Dakota journalist Bob Mercer submitted multiple requests to the Attorney General’s office asking for an inspection of the files related to Benda’s death, but on Wednesday, Jackley denied the request.
“While the Attorney General is not concerned that the investigation evidence will not support the independent findings of the pathologist, the coroner’s death certificate or state, federal, and local law enforcement death scene investigation,” Jackley wrote in a letter to the media on Wednesday. “The Attorney General is concerned it may well affect the innocent members of a family or a minor child.”
Jackley required the consent of immediate family members before he opened up Benda’s files. Benda’s ex-wife refused the request on behalf of Benda’s minor child and Jackley says the personal representative of Benda’s estate also did not consent to the release.