- South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg reported hitting a deer with his car on Saturday night but actually killed a 55-year-old man whose body was not found until the next day.
- The family is now demanding answers about the circumstances of the crash as well as why it took so long to discover and identify the victim’s body.
- While some understand how such an incident could happen in a rural area, others find it unbelievable that he could mistake a human body for an animal. Many are also concerned about the fairness of the investigation and worry Ravnsborg will face little to no consequences since this may not be considered a hit and run.
- Street safety advocates hope that at the very least, this highlights the unique dangers rural roads pose for walkers.
The top law enforcement official in South Dakota is now at the center of a shocking case that is making national headlines.
According to a Monday press release from Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, he was driving home from a GOP fundraiser on Saturday, which he left at around 9:15 p.m. However, during the drive, he hit a large figure in the dark and stopped to check. He said he called 911 to report that he thought he hit a deer and eventually the Hyde County Sheriff came to the scene.
Ravnsborg noted that it was dark out and he could only see that pieces of his vehicle were laying on the road, but he didn’t see what he had hit. He said he used his phone flashlight to look in the nearby ditch but still couldn’t see.
When Sheriff Mike Volek arrived, he also surveyed the scene and filled out the necessary paperwork. Because Ravnsborg’s car was too damaged to drive safely and tow services were well over an hour away, the sheriff took him to his home and offered him his personal vehicle to borrow or the rest of his drive.
The following day, Ravnsborg and his chief of staff went back to the sheriff’s home to return the car. Along the day, they noticed the debris from the previous night near the scene, so they stopped to see if the animal he thought he struck was around.
Instead, they found a man’s body in the grass just off the roadway and said it was apparent that he was deceased. Ravnsborg said he drove to the sheriff’s home to report the discovery. Sheriff Volek allegedly told Ravnsborg that he would handle the investigation and asked him to go home.
The person who was found dead has been identified as 55-year-old Joseph Boever. According to his cousins Nick and Victor Nemec, he had left his Ford pickup truck on the side of the highway Saturday morning after hitting a bale of hay.
Victor took him home and promised to give him a lift to retrieve the truck the next morning, but for some reason, Boever decided to return to the truck on foot that when Ravnsborg struck him that night.
The next morning, Victor called his cousin and received no answer so he drove to his home and on the way, he noticed that the truck was surrounded by police cruisers, crime tape, and tarp.
When he didn’t find Boever at home, he called the sheriff’s office to ask if his cousin was involved in a car crash. Deputies reportedly asked Victor to wait for an officer to show up to speak to him. He waited until a deputy finally phoned at 7:30 p.m., telling him to go to a local funeral home to identify his cousin. Boever’s body was identified after 8 p.m. that Sunday night.
Now the family is demanding answers about the circumstances of the case and the amount of time it took to discover and identify the body.
“I believe the state is going to try to cover this up as much as they can,” Victor told the Rapid City Journal. “This state is known for covering up wrongdoing of elected officials all the time.”
“A deer doesn’t look like a human.”
“I don’t know what the truth is, but I have my doubts whether an official 911 call was made after the accident,” he later told NBC News.
The victim’s wife, Jennifer Boever, was also confused by how everything unfolded, telling the outlet KELO, “Why did my husband lie in a ditch for 22 hours?”
“I mean, we have no answers yet. And right now I’m just raw and numb, I just lost the man of my life.”
A lot of people agree with them, finding some circumstances of this incident odd. Others have also pointed to the attorney general’s driving record. According to local reports, he received six traffic tickets for speeding in South Dakota between 2014 and when he was elected to statewide office in 2018. Four of them were for speeding, one was for a seat belt violation, and another was for driving a vehicle without a proper exhaust and muffler system. He also paid for two speeding tickets in Iowa in 1996 and 2003.
However, there has been no mention of the speed he was driving at when he struck Boever, and in his statement, he also stressed that the hadn’t been drinking that night.
Investigation and Concerns
Ravnsborg offered his condolences to the Boever family and said he was “saddened by the tragic nature of these events.” However, he did say he would not answer public questions until the investigation is over.
He said the investigation is being done by the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation. He also said he was fully cooperating, has agreed to a search of his cell phones, provided a blood draw, and gave names of people at the GOP event who could confirm he was not drinking alcohol.
Based on a lot of the social media responses to this story, hitting an animal on rural roads is not unheard of, so some find his story plausible. In fact, in many cases, drivers are usually taught to not stop to help a wounded animal if they suspect it could cause their vehicle to get hit by another driver on the road. Others also said it’s not exactly bizarre that the local sheriff of a rural community would offer broad courteous resources like loaning his personal car, especially to a person like a state attorney general.
Still, many in the community are concerned that because Ravnsborg holds a position of power, he will face little to no reproductions. Some worry that that could be because of potential corruption in this case, but others say the crime may not technically qualify as a hit-and-run. Even if he were somehow charged with one, the penalties for that crime in South Dakota can carry fines as low as $2,000.
So while some are hoping for consequences, street safety advocates hope that at the very least, this case serves as a cautionary tale and highlights the unique dangers of rural road designs. For instance, the highway where this death happened is a rural 2 lane road with no pedestrian infrastructure or streetlights.
The victim’s family told local reporters that a small stretch of the road runs through their small community, and carries speed limits of 45 to 65 miles per hour throughout. According to a 2016 Propublica report, even at the lower end of that range, a pedestrian struck by a car has less than a 50% chance of survival.
Roads like this are not exactly uncommon in rural communities, which is a huge danger for walkers. According to the Federal Highway Administration, about 25% of collisions between drivers and non-drivers occur along rural highways, despite the fact that only 19% of Americans live in rural areas. Because cars on rural highways travel so fast, crashes are far more likely to be fatal.
See what others are saying: (USA Streets Blog) (NPR) (Rapid City Journal)
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.