I know how you folks hate speculation about Richard Benda's death. So what say you of Governor Dennis Daugaard's diagnosis of the former economic development chief's purported suicide?

Daugaard stopped short of accusing Benda of any wrongdoing, but did speculate that the circumstances, as well as the anxiety involved, likely contributed to Benda’s decision to take his own life.

I’m sure he committed suicide because of the stress of this situation,” Daugaard said [emphasis mine; Chris Mueller, "S.D. Governor: Beef Plant Support Not a Mistake," Prairie Business, 2014.01.27].

Governor Daugaard is sure.

The Governor is not simply affirming his attorney general's official conclusion that Benda killed himself. He's not just wondering out loud, the way many South Dakotans have, about what might have motivated a smart, successful man with a new job and powerful friends.

The Governor of South Dakota is saying he is sure "the stress of this situation" drove Richard Benda to kill himself.

Questions pour forth:

  • How does Dennis Daugaard know what Richard Benda was thinking and feeling the day of Benda's death? Did he talk to Benda in October?
  • What about "this situation" would have caused Benda such stress? Was he just bummed that Northern Beef Packers, the project to which he was indispensable, went bankrupt? Or was the federal investigation of the EB-5 visa program coming down on Benda?
  • If Benda did nothing wrong in his diversion of over half a million state dollars to his own pocket, if the only faintly criminal activity the Attorney General could pin to Benda was a double-billing of travel expenses that Benda's friends in government could easily have written off as error, what else was there to drive him over the edge?
  • What are the seven unrevealed issues in the federal subpoena that Governor Daugaard apparently knows are enough to drive a man to kill himself?

If Governor Daugaard is so sure of his assessment of why Richard Benda is dead, perhaps he should share his knowledge with the rest of South Dakota, and put all speculation to rest for good.