PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Two North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents who worked the crash site and later interviewed Jason Ravnsborg on two occasions told a panel of South Dakota lawmakers Wednesday they thought the South Dakota attorney general was aware that the car he was driving had hit a person.
Supervisory special agent Arnold Rummel and special agent Joe Arenz spent more than two hours testifying together to the House Select Committee on Investigation that is trying to determine whether to recommend to the House of Representatives that Ravnsborg should be impeached.
House Speaker Spencer Gosch is chairing the fact-finding committee. He told reporters afterward there’s no timetable for when the panel might meet again or for completing the report for the House. Asked by KELOLAND News if the report would be done by the March 28 end of the current legislative session, Gosch said he didn’t know.
Ravnsborg through his defense attorney pleaded no-contest last year to two second-class misdemeanors for the death of pedestrian Joe Boever on the night of September 12, 2020, along US 14 at the west edge of Highmore. Ravnsborg never appeared in court on the charges.
Here are some highlights of what the public learned Wednesday.
Arenz interviewed Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek three times. According to Arenz, the sheriff (who has since died) said he looked around the crash scene that night and didn’t see anything. He also told Arenz there were a lot of deer accidents in the area. That first interview lasted about 20 minutes.
Arenz said he interviewed Volek two more times as additional information was received. Arenz said Volek thought a light that the sheriff said he saw in the grass that night was part of Ravnsborg’s vehicle that was still shining. The sheriff told Arenz the light was visible “from a short distance away” but didn’t walk down to see what it was. “That flashlight was right on the edge of the grass and the shoulder of the road,” Arenz said.
Arenz said the flashlight was still shining when the North Dakota investigators arrived at the crash scene about 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 13, 2020. Arenz said it was hard to say whether passing motorists could have seen Boever’s body. He said no one came forward so he assumed no one saw it.
A statement Ravnsborg made during the first interview with Arenz and Rummel stood out for Arenz. Arenz recalled Ravnsborg saying something like, “I didn’t see what I hit until impact.” They conducted a second interview with Ravnsborg two weeks later. Arenz said Ravnsborg agreed during the second interview to take a polygraph test. But Arenz, after consulting with other polygraph administrators, concluded it wouldn’t produce anything beneficial.
The second interview came after Ravnsborg’s cell phone data were analyzed. During the first interview, Ravnsborg said he had made just one call before the crash. Arenz said Ravnsborg wasn’t telling the truth, in his opinion, because the data showed much more activity. “He changed his story from not using his cell phone to using his cell phone,” Arenz said.
Ravnsborg called 911 at 10:24 p.m. Investigators concluded from the data that the phone was locked at the time of the crash. An app on the phone showed Ravnsborg walked 848 steps at the scene immediately after the crash. Boever’s body was partway in the grass, missing the lower right leg. “He would have had to walked right past Joe Boever’s body,” Arenz said. Said Rummel, “I believe he (Ravnsborg) would have had to see him.”
Arenz also interviewed Ravnsborg’s chief of staff Tim Bormann. Sheriff Volek had loaned a personal vehicle to Ravnsborg to continue his drive home to Pierre that night after the crash. Bormann and Ravnsborg drove separately back to Highmore the next morning. According to Arenz, Bormann said Ravnsborg wanted to return to the crash site. After arriving, Bormann and Ravnsborg went opposite directions, and Ravnsborg shouted that he had found Boever’s body.
Ravnsborg and Bormann then went to the sheriff’s house nearby to report the body, according to Arenz. He said the sheriff told Ravnsborg and Bormann to return to Pierre, while the sheriff stayed at the scene, waiting for the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation to send an agent.