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Funeral set for Monday for state Rep. Tieszen

A funeral for state Rep. Craig Tieszen, who died in a kayaking accident last week in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, will take place Monday at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Fine Arts Center. 

The service will begin at 1 p.m., according to a release from Gov. Dennis Daugaard's office. In lieu of flowers, Tieszen's family asks that donations be made to the Rapid City Club for Boys, an organization he supported.

Daugaard's chief of staff, Tony Venhuizen, confirmed that the governor will attend the funeral. 

Tieszen, 68, and his brother-in-law, Brent Moline, 61, both of Rapid City, died Nov. 22 while kayaking off the island of Rarotonga. 

A public visitation for Moline will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at Osheim & Schmidt Funeral Home. His family will hold a private funeral at a later time.

The release said Daugaard has requested that all flags in the state be flown at half-staff from 8 a.m. to sunset Monday to honor Tieszen.

Before his legislative career, Tieszen served with the police department from 1975 to 2007 and was chief from 2000 to 2007. The police department will have a presence at Monday's service, but spokesman Brendyn Medina said the details were still being worked out. 

The service will be open to the public. The Fine Arts Theater inside the civic center is capable of seating up to 1,700 people, city spokesman Darrell Shoemaker said. 

Causes of death revealed

More details are emerging about the events that led up to the kayaking accident. In a Facebook post earlier this week, the Cook Islands Police service said that Tieszen, Moline and a third man who was not named went kayaking around 9 a.m. local time Nov. 22 in the lagoon in Muri.  

Tieszen and Moline got too close to the reef and "were dragged to where the waves were breaking," the post said. "It was quite rough on the reef ... and their kayaks capsized." 

The third man in the group attempted to rescue the Tieszen and Moline but was unable, and paddled back to the hotel to get help. Cook Island police were notified of the accident shortly before 11 a.m. A tour boat arrived on scene within 20 minutes, and a police officer and three volunteers began searching for the men.

Tieszen was pulled from the water and brought to shore across the lagoon, where a number of people tried to resuscitate him. After those attempts failed, he was taken to a hospital. 

Moline's body was later recovered by a search and rescue team. Both men were pronounced dead around 1 p.m. A local coroner determined one of the men died as a result of asphyxia-induced cardiac arrest while the other was from suffocation due to drowning. 

In a Facebook message exchange with a Journal reporter, Cook Islands police said they were unable to clarify which man died of which condition. 

No life jackets were found in the area, and police said most kayakers don't wear them because the lagoon is considered safe. 

Rarotonga is the largest and most populous of the Cook Islands, an archipelago of 15 islands in the central South Pacific.

Tieszen and Moline were vacationing on the island with other family members. Tieszen's daughter, Leslie, was to be married Nov. 22, the day of the accident, but the wedding was postponed. 

Vandals cause $25K in damage to historic mining structures

LEAD | Partiers built their own private speak-easy inside one of three historic brick buildings, originally used to house explosives for the former Homestake Gold Mine.

But in the course of fashioning their seemingly exclusive hangout, they caused an estimated $25,000 damage to two of the buildings, called powder houses, nestled among the pines and aspens southwest of Lead.

“It hurts my heart to see these buildings damaged,” said Chip Kimball, manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s South Dakota field office in Belle Fourche. “They’re beautiful old buildings that are absolutely neat to see."

A BLM employee making a routine monthly check of the property last summer discovered remnants of a backwoods party at the site of Powder House No. 2, including evidence of trees cut down for a bonfire, with empty beer cans and liquor bottles strewn about.

The intruders had gone so far as to install their own padlocks on three heavy iron and timber doors accessing the building’s interior, where they had stripped away interior wood and used other spare timber and corrugated tin stored inside to fashion a crude bar, complete with a wooden bench seat.

They even added trucked-in tables and black upholstered restaurant booth seats.

“They did a pretty good job constructing the bar, I’ll give them that,” said Brenda Striers of Sturgis, BLM archaeologist.

BLM officials replaced the vandals’ padlocks to re-secure the buildings, but just a couple weeks ago, a second break-in at two of the buildings was discovered.

Unable to force the new padlocks open, vandals had gained entry by knocking gaping, jagged holes in the double-layer brick exterior of two of the buildings.

The latest damage, estimated to exceed $25,000, prompted BLM officials to offer a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

“It took some substantial work for them to knock these holes in the walls,” said Kimball.

The hole opened up in a back corner of Powder House No. 2 is especially worrisome, Kimball and Striers said. It extends to the wooden rafters, prompting fears of a potential roof collapse under the weight of winter snowfall.

“We’re afraid the whole building could come down,” Kimball said.

Wooden timbers have been added to temporarily reinforce the roof for now, but officials also fear the wall will continue to crumble and collapse around the already gaping holes.

The buildings, estimated to be a century old, had been purposely built in a remote location as a reserve storage facility for 50-pound boxes of dynamite and fuses, delivered by train and used for mining gold ore at the Homestake Mine.

The mine abandoned the powder houses in the mid-'60s, when mining practices no longer required dynamite.

The BLM took over management of the historic buildings in 2002, when all mining activity ceased.

A guardhouse converted to a residence near the powder houses had been torn down long ago, but the three remaining buildings had been painstakingly restored in 2008.

Repairing the holes and restoring the interior of the two buildings will require more extensive research to find identical brick work, roof tin and other materials to maintain the powder houses' authentic appearance.

Al Nash, BLM Montana/Dakotas communications chief from Billings, Mont., hopes the offered reward will reinvigorate the investigation by appealing to Lead residents' pride in their local lore.

“The fabric of this community is made from its history. We need help from the community to find those responsible,” Nash said. “We need leads.”

Striers added her own plea.

"Please help us find these vandals, so we can find a way get them to understand what they did was wrong, and so we can find a way to keep these iconic, historic buildings standing for another 100 years,” she said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the BLM at 892-7025.

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Sturgis rally sex sting case going to trial

A man caught in a sex sting during the 2016 Sturgis motorcycle rally is going on trial next week, only the third among dozens of arrestees to face the jury.

Andries Snyman of Isabel is scheduled for a four-day trial at the Rapid City federal courthouse starting Tuesday. He is charged with attempted enticement of a minor using the internet, an offense that carries a penalty of 10 years to life in prison.

Authorities accuse Snyman, then 41, of trying to entice a 14-year-old boy to meet him for sexual activity in August of last year, according to Snyman’s criminal complaint. It says Snyman met the boy — the undercover persona of a sheriff’s deputy — through a mobile application and that they moved on to communicating via text messages.

Snyman was arrested at the parking lot of Rapid City’s Stevens High School, where he and the boy agreed to meet, the document states.

Snyman maintains his innocence. His position is that he never intended to engage in sexual activity with the boy, rather “he intended to meet with the 14-year-old boy to educate him on the dangers of encountering older men on gay dating applications and help him cope with the stress shared amongst the marginalized gay community,” according to a court order allowing the testimony of a defense expert on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population.

The Sturgis rally sex stings, conducted every year since 2013, target people wanting to engage in sexual activity with minors. State and federal law enforcement agents have posed as either pimps or teenagers on ad sites or social media platforms, where they came into contact with the defendants. All the cases have been prosecuted in Rapid City federal court.

Of the 36 men arrested and charged, 22 have been convicted, one has died and the rest of the cases are still ongoing.

Only two of the defendants have gone to trial, according to federal prosecutors.

James Larive Jr., 46, and Jerry Golliher, 35, were both arrested in 2013 and found guilty of commercial sex trafficking the following year. Larive was sentenced to 10 years in prison; Golliher to 15 years.

Dec. 6, 2017: Changed Snyman's age at the time of his arrest from 42 to 41. 

Hannah Hunsinger, Journal staff 

Rapid City gymnastics practice at Rapid City high school.

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From rock 'n' roll to landing on Mars: NASA scientist holds talk on space exploration
Adam Steltzner speaks during Morning Fill Up series

It was a long and unlikely road that led Adam Steltzner to Mars.

As part of the monthly Morning Fill Up series at The Garage on Thursday morning, Steltzner chronicled how he went from a high school student with poor grades who played in a rock 'n' roll band to leading the design and implementation of the landing for the Mars Curiosity rover for NASA in 2012.

Steltzner, who was interviewed by Matt Ehlman of the Numad Group, doesn't look like a scientist. His Elvis-style haircut and black button-up ooze cool. Also, most scientists haven't been in GQ magazine. 

In high school, Steltzner said, "I had done a really good job of convincing myself that I was not an academic."

He failed geometry and passed the second time with an F plus. "Miss Hunter just didn't want to see me in the classroom anymore." 

After high school he studied music for a year and eventually ended up playing bass in a band called Stick Figures. "I love music, but I played it poorly," Steltzner said.

He found his band's success was more about the clothes they wore or the clubs they played, and less about how good they were at music.

"It just didn't square with me," he said. "There were so many pieces of the puzzles that didn't seem to be derived from the thing we were doing — the music we were making."

It was after playing a gig one night in California that he looked to the stars and he was hit with a spark of curiosity that lead him on a journey to Mars and better understanding of the world.

"Orion had been in the east when I went to play a show, and it was in the west when I came home," Steltzner said. He wanted to know why Orion had moved across the sky, so he enrolled in a College of Marin astronomy class and took a corequisite physics course.

"It took that little spark of curiosity and lit a fire," Steltzner said of the physics course."The idea that you could understand the world, and through math, that you could predict the future state of the world, was incredibly calming."

He dove head first into science and went on to get a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at University of California, Davis; a Master of Science degree in applied mechanics at California Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in engineering mechanics at University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Steltzner then landed a job at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he spent 10 years designing and building the landing system for the Mars Curiosity rover.

"The laboratory had this appreciation for ideas no matter where they came," said Steltzner, who thrived in the environment.

Steltzner said his job was to look for design failures in the landing system, and then look for ways to make sure the design didn't fail because of those failures. 

In August 2012, after a decade of work, Curiosity was finally set to land on Mars. The federal government had spent $2.5 billion on the rover project, but Steltzner wasn't concerned about the amount of money that had been invested. Instead, he thought about his 3,000 colleagues who had worked on the project. 

"I was desperately concerned that some inadequacy on my part could jeopardize some part of their lives," he said.

As Curiosity hurdled toward Mars at 13,000 mph, more than 50 million people from around the world tuned in to watch. For Steltzner, it was the most "agonizing minutes" of his life.

As the rover entered Mars' atmosphere, the first signal it sent back read "beta off nominal catastrophic." The word catastrophic isn't generally a great sign. 

"The very first thing that comes back said says, 'Oh, you screwed that up, and it's over,'" Steltzner said, noting that he wasn't surprised something went wrong but just that it happened so quickly. "I had not thought about success, I had only thought about failure because that was my job."

Adrenaline rushed through his body as he thought his 10-year project had come to an end. Just as the team thought all was lost, they discovered that the first measurement had been off. The second message came back normal. The rover was still fine and racing toward the surface of Mars.

The team crossed milestone after milestone in what they now refer to as the seven minutes of terror.  Finally, Steltzner heard "touchdown confirmed, we are safe on Mars" over the communication system.

"The room explodes, and I am still there waiting for the failure," he said. "Those 10 minutes were the most agonizing minutes of my life."

Steltzner said all kinds of people came up to him after the landing and said they were moved by what he and his team had done. The car-sized Curiosity rover was able to explore and retrieve data that had never before been collected. 

"It's kind of like performance art," Steltzner said. "We are sort of asking the question of what is possible for us as human beings to do."

In the past, according to Steltzner, space exploration had always been rationalized by the spinoff technology it created.

He joked that Teflon, a space race byproduct, made "many pans very slippery."

"And Tang came out of that," he added with a laugh.

But now, Steltzner says space exploration is different.  "I vastly prefer to say that we do it for no good reason."

He lists music, art, sports, literature, dance and architecture as other examples. "All of the things that define us as a species, are things that don't make the price of gas any cheaper," Steltzner said.

"All of the great things that make us who we are, are done for no good reason."