A South Dakota family is mourning the loss of a man who was struck and killed by a car believed to have been driven by the state attorney general, who initially told police he thought he had hit a deer late at night.
“The last time I spoke to my cousin was Saturday morning. It was the day he was killed,” Nick Nemec, 62, told Fox News on Thursday when reached by phone.
Nemec’s cousin, 55-year-old Joseph Boever, was walking along Highway 14 near Highmore in Hyde County at approximately 10:30 p.m. when he is believed to have been struck by Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s 2011 Ford Taurus, according to a police press release.
“[M]y vehicle struck something that I believed to be a large animal (likely a deer),” Ravnsborg, 44, said in a two-page statement released Monday. “I didn’t see what I hit and stopped my vehicle immediately to investigate.”
Ravnsborg said he called 911 and used the flashlight on his cell phone to survey a ditch near the area, “but couldn’t see anything.”
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“I looked around the vehicle in the dark and saw nothing to indicate what I had hit,” he said in the statement. “All I could see were pieces of my vehicle laying on and around the roadway.”
When Sheriff Mike Volek arrived, he, too, “surveyed the damage” to the crime scene and to Ravnsborg’s vehicle, the state AG said.
“At no time did either of us suspect that I had been involved in an accident with a person,” his statement continued. Ravnsborg, whose car was too damaged to drive, borrowed Volek’s personal vehicle to get home, he said.
Earlier that night, Boever told his cousins that his pick-up truck had broken down not far from the crime scene. He had arranged with one of his cousins – Nemec’s brother, Victor – to return to the truck on Sunday morning.
“And then, for whatever reason, my cousin decided to walk up to his pickup, rather than wait for Sunday morning,” Nick Nemec told Fox News.
Hours after the crash, Victor drove into Highmore to meet as the pair had planned, but he arrived to find Boever’s house empty.
“He goes into the town of Highmore, over to my cousin’s house and knocks on the door … nobody answers and he calls my cousin. Nobody answers,” Nemec continued. “The door was unlocked. So, he let himself in the house and he looks around. All the lights are on. My cousin wasn’t there.”
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Nemec said his brother, who had passed the crime scene investigation and Boever’s truck on the way to his house, began to worry. He called the sheriff and notified him of his suspicions.
Boever’s body was discovered Sunday morning “in the grass just off the roadway,” Ravnsborg wrote.
Hours later, when the South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announced on Sunday that Ravnsborg had been involved in a traffic accident that led to a fatality, the Nemecs’ concerns grew even further.
“[Ravnsborg] shared his condolences to the family of the victim probably three hours before the victim’s family had even identified the body,” Nemec said. “And the only members of the victim’s family that even suspected this might be a family member or cousin, who is my brother, and I could relate to the process of.”
Ravnsborg described in his later statement how he and his chief of staff were driving to return Volek’s vehicle the morning after the scene when they stopped at the accident scene.
“As I walked along the shoulder of the road I discovered the body of Mr. Boever in the grass just off the roadway,” he wrote. “[I]t was apparent that Mr. Boever was deceased.”
Ravnsborg said he is “cooperating fully” with the crash investigation and offered his “heartfelt condolences” to Boever’s family. The investigation into the crash is ongoing and no arrests have been reported so far.
Craig Price, secretary of public safety for the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, said during a subsequent press conference that the medical examination was conducted in Ramsey County, Minn., on Sept. 14. He did not say whether the findings would ultimately be released. The Department of Public Safety is also working with a third party, an out-of-state reconstruction expert, Price said.
Price said the office will be releasing the crash report once it is complete, along with the 911 call, which will be made public at the appropriate time.
It was not clear whether Ravnsborg would be suspended while the investigation is conducted.
Nemec recently described how he revisited the crash site on Tuesday “to see it for myself and get a better handle on the events surrounding my cousin Joe’s death.”
He recalled in a recent comment shared with the Dakota Free Press how even days after the collision, remnants of blood and skid marks could still be seen on and along the roadway.
In a post on his Facebook page, Nemec shared a column from The Dickinson Press, titled, “SD Attorney General heavy on self-survival, light on empathy.”
The column, Nemec wrote, “does a good job expressing some of the feelings I have.”
“The whole, ‘I hit a deer’ story is just a line of bulls—,” Nemec said.
Meanwhile, family members continued to grieve the loss of Boever, whom Nemec described as “meek.”
Boever did not have any children, but was married, although he and his wife had separated months earlier, Nemec said.
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He enjoyed gardening and particularly liked propagating plants.
“He rescued houseplants. His specialty was Jane plants … and he would get these jade plants growing in these pots and then give them to people as a gift,” Nemec continued. “And my wife and I have one sitting in our living room window. My brother and his wife have one. Other people have told me they’ve got one of Joe’s jade plants.”
He added: “He’ll live on potentially forever through his jade plants.”