South Dakota AG alleges fatal crash may have been suicide

A man speaking at a table.
Jason Ravnsborg speaks in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Feb. 23, 2014.
Dirk Lammers | AP 2014

South Dakota's attorney general is attempting to access any psychiatric or psychological records of the man he struck and killed along a highway, alleging in court documents that the death may have been a suicide.

Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg faces three misdemeanor charges related to his driving when he struck and killed Joe Boever the night of Sept. 12.

Investigators say Ravnsborg was distracted and swerved out of his lane on Highway 14 near Highmore as Boever, 55, walked on the shoulder with a flashlight.

A motion filed Friday alleges a pattern of alcoholism and prescription drug abuse by Boever that caused at least one family member, a cousin, to believe that a depressed Boever killed himself by jumping in front of Ravnsborg's car.

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"Mr. Barnabas Nemec (cousin) further explained that in December, 2019, Mr. Joseph Boever … told me his preferred method of suicide would be to throw himself in front of a car,” the motion stated.

Ravnsborg's attorney, Tim Rensch, disputes law enforcement's findings that Boever was struck on the shoulder of the highway and instead believes he was hit on the roadway, according to the court filing.

“The evidence on the roadway and shoulder as examined by law enforcement the day after the death of Mr. Boever was different than it was the night before as there was wind, continued vehicle travel, and movement of the Ravnsborg vehicle by law enforcement in the interim,” the motion read.

The attorney general is charged with careless driving, operating a vehicle while on an electronic device and driving outside of his lane.

Nemec's brother, Nick Nemec, said he doesn’t trust his sibling's analysis of the situation because he’s prone to jump to conclusions.

“The attorney general can throw anything he wants at the wall to try to prove his innocence,” Nick Nemec said. “The fact the attorney general is stigmatizing someone who may have been diagnosed with depression is troubling and insulting.”

Ravnsborg told officials he never saw Boever and thought he struck a deer.

Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek responded to the scene and let Ravnsborg drive his car home to Pierre. Ravnsborg said they didn’t realize he hit and killed a person until he returned to the scene the next morning.

GOP Gov. Kristi Noem, three law enforcement organizations and some legislators have called on Ravnsborg, a Republican, to resign.

Each charge against the attorney general carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail. A trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 26.