PIERRE | A bull owned by one rancher and another bull owned by another rancher in western South Dakota somehow wound up with the opposite owners.
Then the story turned stranger yet.
The bull belonging to Tom Costello, a rancher from the Buffalo area, was among cattle owned by Matt Sandal, a rancher from the Quinn area. Sandal had a third man take the cattle, including Costello’s bull, to St. Onge Livestock for sale.
The state's brand inspector saw the bull didn’t belong to Sandal and directed St. Onge Livestock to put a hold on the proceeds.
St. Onge Livestock then sold the bull and set the money aside. That was Oct. 6, according to the hold report.
Costello said he didn’t learn until several weeks later that the bull bearing his ownership brand was sold without his knowledge or consent. He took the matter to the State Brand Board on Wednesday. He said he thought the bull among his cattle was his. Instead it belonged to Sandal.
Costello told the brand board the state attorney general’s office should review South Dakota’s hold law.
Among its provisions, the law specifically says that livestock lacking a seller’s proof of ownership “shall be held or sold.”
The law goes on to say that if the livestock are sold, the selling agent is financially responsible for the proceeds and shall hold the proceeds for the owner or the state’s ownership inspection fund.
The law further says that if a state inspector finds livestock carrying a recorded brand that isn’t the property of the consignor, and there’s no ownership paper, “the inspector may sell or hold the livestock.”
In other words, the law gives the state inspector discretion about what to do.
If the inspector decides the livestock should be sold, then the selling agency is supposed to hold the proceeds for 60 days or until the consignor establishes evidence of ownership, according to the law. “All livestock holds after sixty days shall be forwarded by the inspector to the board for review and final disposition,” it says.
“I think you’re implementing the law wrong," Costello told the board Wednesday. “The law is too ambiguous.”
He sounded upset. The commercial-grade bull now needs to be replaced, he said, and it’s two or three years earlier than what he planned. He emphasized the bull carried his brand on its hide.
“Nobody contacted anybody this had transpired,” Costello said. “I didn’t have a chance to no-sale it. I didn’t have a chance to do nothing.”
Debbie Trapp, the state board’s executive director, said it’s common for livestock markets to sell cattle that are under hold orders. Trapp said market managers otherwise face criticism if they wait and the market price is lower when the livestock sell.
“They always just sell the livestock and hold the money,” Trapp said.
Chairwoman Wanda Blair of Vale told Costello the five board members around the table don’t have authority to change state law and they can’t get the bull back.
Costello said he wanted an interpretation whether he was right. “I don’t think your policy is right, the way you’re implementing it,” he replied.
Sandal came and got his bull back from Costello’s ranch, Costello said.
Sandal didn’t attend the meeting. Silvia Christen, executive director for the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, did, however.
The association ran the ownership inspection program for the Brand Board until the board — at the direction of then-Gov. Mike Rounds — took over the management.
What amounted to a political divorce still stirs hard feelings within at least some members of the association. Christen spoke from her seat in the audience. She said the law was followed but the state inspector assigned to St. Onge Livestock that day made a poor judgment.
Blair in turn repeated her defense. “There really isn’t anything we can do today because can’t change the law,” Blair said.
The Sandal bull still had a breeder’s brand on it, Costello said. Costello called on the attorney general to look at the law. “This is costing the producers every time,” Costello said.
Blair wanted the matter done. “The check has been sent,” she told Costello.
“I haven’t seen it yet,” Costello replied as he left.
The board later went into executive session closed to the public. During the wait, the Journal asked Dan Bothwell, the state’s chief brand inspector, how much Costello could expect.
Bothwell said he didn’t know for certain, but he’d heard the amount was about $1,400.
After the meeting ended, the Journal asked the board members and their executive director how much Costello would be getting. They also didn’t know.
Nearly 300 veterans turned out Thursday for an event aimed at helping them get benefits such as health care and housing assistance.
The Veteran Stand Down event at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center attracted veterans from the Vietnam War era all the way up to those who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
The numbers were up from last year, when 200 veterans came to the Stand Down event in Rapid City, according to Jamison Hild, outreach coordinator for the Black Hills VA.
Five Stand Down events are held each year in different locations around western South Dakota. They are open to anyone who served in the military, but the focus is to reach out to veterans who are homeless or at risk for homelessness.
"They've earned their benefits, and sometimes they're just not educated about what they are qualified for," Hild said.
A number of local agencies participated in Thursday's event, including the Hope Center, the Man Salon and Goodwill of the Great Plains.
With the need for veteran assistance clearly growing, Hild said the Stand Down events will continue next year.
A family of three died in a wreck involving a drunken driver on the Pine Ridge reservation Saturday, according to tribal authorities.
Wanblee residents Waylon Red Elk Sr., 42, died together with his wife, Jaylene Pretends Eagle, 34, and their 1-year-old son, Waylon Red Elk Jr. Jaylene had been seven months pregnant with her seventh child during the crash in the town of Porcupine, according to her obituary sent to the Journal.
The incident involved another car with a driver believed to be intoxicated, said Oglala Sioux Tribe police chief Mark Mesteth.
FBI spokesman Craig Lisher also confirmed the fatal accident but said he didn't have details on the crash.
Funeral services for the victims are scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at the Crazy Horse School in Wanblee, according to Sioux Funeral Home. The family will be buried at the Gethsemane Episcopal Cemetery.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
STURGIS | Two young men and a woman from Fort Collins, Colo., and a fourth man from Sturgis, have been arrested, jailed and charged with committing numerous felonies including kidnapping following an early Saturday morning home invasion in which a Sturgis woman was assaulted.
Apprehended Tuesday in Spearfish were Azariah Job Conley, 18, Sturgis, and Moses Isai Avila, 19, Elizabeth Loraine Mauk, 18, and Armando Louis Valdivia, 18, all of Fort Collins, state Attorney General Marty Jackley’s office announced Thursday.
The quartet of suspects is charged with a variety of felony crimes, including second-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary, aggravated assault and identity theft. If convicted, the suspects could face combined maximum penalties of up to 92 years, as well as fines totaling more than $100,000 each, according to the attorney general's office.
Although unconfirmed by local and state law enforcement agencies, the charges apparently stem from the reported invasion by the suspects of a home on Ball Park Road early Saturday morning. In that incident, which began shortly after 7 a.m., the homeowner, a Sturgis woman in her 50s, encountered the four individuals who entered her home without permission, allegedly seeking money.
During the invasion, the suspects reportedly shot the woman 14 times with a pellet gun, two shots to her eye and a dozen to her torso. The homeowner was subsequently treated for her injuries at a Rapid City hospital and was later released.
Meade County State’s Attorney Kevin Krull late Thursday characterized the crime in the town of 6,800 as “a little bit frightening.”
“Anytime somebody is assaulted in this way is surprising and frightening,” Krull said. “Today at the court hearing, I was able to share that they were demanding money from her. They were able to get her ATM debit card and withdraw a small amount of money.”
The lone female suspect in the kidnapping and assault apparently did not enter the house, but was responsible for driving the vehicle used by the other assailants, Krull said.
“The other three went in the house, threatened the victim, beat the victim, and shot her multiple times with a BB gun or a pellet gun,” the state’s attorney said.
Krull said he had not received information on why the suspects chose the victim's house. All four suspects in the incident will be arraigned on the afternoon of Nov. 22, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, he said.
The incident remains under investigation by the state Division of Criminal Investigation, Spearfish Police, and the Meade and Lawrence County sheriff’s offices, he said.