All I can say are good things.

That line came at the end of a hard conversation I had last night. That conversation was a lot harder for the person on the other end of the line, the person who may have been the last to communicate with Richard Benda on the day he died.

Don't ask me who. Just understand: it's a friend of Benda's, someone who doesn't want to be news. To this friend, Richard's death isn't news. It isn't politics. It just hurts.

To protect this friend's identity, I slip into a paraphrased first person. I take liberties with the wording but not the facts. This is what Richard's friend told me.

I met Richard through a friend he dated. He became my friend. He became my whole family's friend.

Richard visited often. He didn't talk much about work. He always talked about his daughter.

We never heard Richard talk about hunting or fishing. He never went out with my family to hunt. Why would he even own a shotgun?

Richard wasn't the type of guy to kill himself. He never spoke along those lines. He was full of life, always positive. I never saw him "down." He was an all-around happy guy.

I saw him the day before he died [Saturday, October 19]. We had lunch. Everything seemed fine.

The next morning, he texted me, said he was picking up his daughter from some weekend activity and taking her home to Watertown.

My family was planning a good dinner that evening. I invited Richard to come join us. Late in the afternoon, he texted back, said he couldn't make it. He said he was going hunting, and he'd bring back some pheasant.

That sounded odd for Richard. It sounded odd to my family. But I didn't see any warning in those words on my screen.

I sent him a couple messages, found it odd that he didn't reply, Sunday or Monday... but hey, business happens.

Thursday, October 24, I learned Richard was dead.

The following Thursday, October 31, investigators from the state came to ask me questions. They said they got my info from Richard's phone records. They asked me what I knew about Richard's work. They asked me if I'd heard that he'd been in any kind of trouble. I'd never gotten the sense that Richard was involved in any bad business.

The investigators wouldn't tell me much. I asked if they could at least tell me when Richard died. They wouldn't. They did say they were looking at his death as either suicide or a hunting accident. I told them that's bull.

But Richard... Richard....

All I can say are good things.

Those are the facts as Richard's friend tells them. That is the counterpoint Richard's friend offers to the accusatory epitaph South Dakota state government appears inclined to write.

All I can say are good things.

Would that we all could earn such remembrance when we are gone.