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Daugaard Sure Stress Drove Benda to Kill Himself

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.


  1. Mark Remily 2014.01.29

    Here's where i'm scratching my head. Bendas Brother-in-law (Jim Johanneson) found the body on Tuesday and reported to the Mitchell daily republic that it looked like he had a heart attack. But, if thats the case, there would be no blood. One would think that if Benda shot himself with a shotgun at close range in the stomach, that Jim Johanneson would have noticed blood and guts everywhere. Bendas brother-in-law has not been heard from since.
    Just a thought

  2. Rick 2014.01.29

    Jackley and Daugaard can't keep their stories straight, as you have pointed out. This makes me much more suspicious of hanky panky by the Attorney General because now, according to our state's Chief Executive, there appears to have been no reason for Benda to have committed suicide and zero evidence of any despondent behavior leading up to the event.

    If the alleged autopsy report states he used a branch to push the trigger, enabling a shotgun blast to blow a hole through the abdomen, that indicates someone who wanted to die and deliberately die very brutally and slowly. What other conclusion makes sense here?

    Daugaard, Rounds and Jackley are in this up to their eyeballs. They have now chosen to spin this as an unfortunate self-inflicted death connected to a minor financial disclosure incident involving an otherwise sensible series of secretive investment of many millions. Or am I missing something?

  3. thc 2014.01.29

    Right now I have a mental image of the vast majority of South Dakotans with their hands over their ears, shouting "La la la, I can't HEAR you!" Unfortunately, a lot of people in that crowd make a living passing themselves off as "journalists".
    The entire Northern Beef/Benda/GOED/EB5 scam just doesn't square with the dearly-held self-image the vast Red State majority NEEDS to hang on to. The self-image being "It's different here. It's not like the rest of the country. They are doomed and we are The Chosen. And it hurts my hair to think too much about it."
    I honestly don't expect the true story to ever emerge. The power structure is just too interwoven and those people with their hands over their ears would punish anyone who dares to soil that precious self-regard.
    So yes, Northern Beef will once again be the recipient of some serious SD sugar in the name of "economic development" (a holy phrase if ever there was one).
    Richard Benda's death and the circumstances surrounding it will continue to be none of our damned business.
    And as long as SD continues to be a one-party state with no real public debate over anything other than elected office-holders's right to pack heat at work, we will continue to snuggle up to the notion of South Dakota exceptionalism.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.29

    Now, Mark, there you go speculating again. The Attorney General and Governor have told you what to think. Pipe down!

  5. Troy 2014.01.29

    I think the Governor should have not speculated into Rich's mind for public consumption. Yes, those of us who knew Rich at a personal level have our suspicions of the stimulating event, formed by our experiences with Rich.

    Suicide is the ultimate in an irrational act tied ti a very specific moment in time.. To apply reason to the irrational event is futile..

  6. interested party 2014.01.29

    Denny wasn't speculating, Troy: he was whistling past the graveyard.

  7. Rick 2014.01.29

    ... therefore, nobody need pay any attention to an alleged self-inflicted shotgun blast to the belly preceded by what I, a South Dakota citizen, am being told involved a relatively minor voucher error. Not buying those apples. Not that dumb. I know enough about human psychology and suicidal behavior to know this explanation rates very, very low in probability. Since the Attorney General won't allow full disclosure on this very mysterious death of a former high ranking public official who is linked to a federal investigation involving millions and millions of dollars, a murder motive seems much more likely than the explanation.

  8. Troy 2014.01.29


    Scenario #1: Benda stole millions of dollars and feared being jailed for 10 or even 20 years with likely getting out early with good behavior. Killing yourself and inflicting harm on people he loved and who loved him is still not rational.

    Scenario #2: He had enormous guilt for causing the State and others to lose millions of dollars on what innocently he thought was a sound business idea but failed. Killing yourself and inflicting harm on others is not rational.

    Scenario #3: While he inadvertently over-billed on these trips, upon doing the work he could show he didn't submit vouchers on more money (essentially not enriching himself but in fact doing the opposite) but feared the embarrassment because he believed himself to be diligent in small and large matters. Killing yourself is still not rational.

    People have and do die by suicide for a multitude of reasons (big or small) but in all cases it is still an irrational act made at a definite place and time.

    Anybody who tries to apply reason to the unreasonable is tilting at windmills. Whether Rich did or didn't do anything nefarious should be investigated to the extent there is evidence supporting it. You are trying to extrapolate his irrational act into an accusation the Attorney General and others are hiding something.

    This rash judgment (making a serious charge against another without sufficient evidence) is both unjust against Rich and the Attorney General.

  9. interested party 2014.01.29

    Be assured that the bullet points connecting Bendagate with sex trafficking are on somebody's whiteboard.

    Patience, people.


  10. DB 2014.01.29

    "One would think that if Benda shot himself with a shotgun at close range in the stomach, that Jim Johanneson would have noticed blood and guts everywhere. "

    After 24 hours in a shelter belt, you will need to look real hard for blood and I doubt he did. You aren't going to see guts if the victim is laying on the wound. What you see on tv, doesn't happen in real life.

    "What other conclusion makes sense here?"

    You guys watch too many movies. A close range shotgun blast to the abdomen is going to kill you in minutes, if not seconds. If you want proof of that, a Sioux Falls man was recently killed with a handgun after being shot in the abdomen during a botched robbery. Court documents indicate he was only alive for minutes after the shot.

    I doubt the vouchers were the only thing on Benda's mind. I also doubt he knew the 550k being redirected was perfectly legal which would have contributed to his depleted mental state. Trying to rationalize what he did is going to get you nowhere. If you think this is some big conspiracy, I'll buy you your first roll of tinfoil.

  11. Mark Remily 2014.01.29

    Come to think of it. I AM out of tinfoil. You can mail it to me, I'm in the Aberdeen phone book. Not sure if DB is in any phone book in S.D.. I AM concerned about government intimidation, and try to engage others to ask more questions.

  12. Roger Cornelius 2014.01.29


    Perhaps you should send a roll of tinfoil, I'm sure you have an ample supply, to members of the federal grand jury, federal investigators and to Bob Mercer.

  13. Les 2014.01.29

    When did Dick Benda become Rich Benda to friends and acquaintances?

  14. DB 2014.01.29

    You guys need to know the right questions to be asking. Don't go all CSI on them like you are going to tell the DCI, Minnehaha county examiners, forensic investigators, crime scene re-constructors, pathologists, and how many other investigators that the forensics and other evidence conclude something different than what the years and years of experience tell them it concludes. If you think a cover-up of that nature is possible, yes, I will send you some tinfoil.

  15. Roger Cornelius 2014.01.29


    This is actually very simple, as simple as gets without borrowing your tinfoil.

    IF Attorney Jackley and Governor Daugaard would allow Mercer and Cory an opportunity to review the Investigative Report on the Benda homicide, it would forever clear up any CSI speculation and need for a tinfoil hat.

    What say you DB?

  16. Les 2014.01.29

    While I agree with you on many points DB, do a little research and tell me why we have so many unattended deaths without autopsy in SD and how that fits in with your no way Hose-A.
    Consistently do things right and there is no reason to question. Consequently, benda the facts for years at every political opportunity and you get the suspicion we got!

  17. DB 2014.01.29

    If you want to waste your time on that, by all means go for it. I haven't seen a legitimate question about his death....mostly what people think is real because they saw it in a western.

  18. Roger Cornelius 2014.01.29

    I don't watch westerns or csi shows.
    If you want to lay down covered in a tinfoil blanket and accept as fact what the government tells you, go for it. As far as legitimate questions there are plenty that could easily be answered if Daugaard/Jackley would allow an independent review by Mercer and Cory.

    Les, often times when there is an attended or unattended death and the victim has been under a doctor's care there may not be an autopsy. The elderly and terminally will often choose to die at home.

  19. Les 2014.01.29

    Not releasing that report has less to do with Benda than the manipulation of a larger problem.

  20. Les 2014.01.29

    I'm speaking of suicide, death of the more violent nature.

  21. DB 2014.01.29

    Roger, I think the only legitimate questions in Benda's death would be intent, which is going to be tied up into the Fed's investigation and you won't get to see that. I think there is a lot more too it, but I don't think Benda's death in a tree belt from a shotgun is the issue. If this was some sort of state conspiracy, the Feds would be digging into the details of his death much more.

  22. DB 2014.01.29

    Les, one would have to be pretty involved to know of all the suicides and the details of each to make an accusation like that. They aren't advertised like homicides. Do you have anything to substantiate that claim?

  23. grudznick 2014.01.29

    Mr. Cornelius, Mercer is an independent journalist but if Bloggers get to review all this stuff then you have to open the door for Mr. Powers and Mr. Sibby too. At least they live in South Dakota and could probably even carpool to the archive where the evidence is stored.

  24. Roger Cornelius 2014.01.29


    I realize it maybe a pipe dream to wish for an independent investigation by Mercer and Cory, but if there were to be one Cory would be the best to answer the questions the public have. He knows more about the whole GOED scandal and the Benda investigation than probably anybody in South Dakota, less the investigators, etc.

    Do you know for fact that the feds are or aren't investigating Benda's death as part of the GOED scandal?
    You and les are both right about the Benda death being a only a part of the investigation, it seems obvious to many that there is a much bigger picture, much bigger.

  25. grudznick 2014.01.29

    Mr. H isn't in South Dakota. And are you familiar with the term "French math?" We don't want to be using French Math in situations like this, in many people's opinion. If/when Mr. H moves back to South Dakota, gets himself settled into a good teaching job where he will no doubt be among the best of the good teachers who get bigger raises than ever and helps our wonderful children continue to outperform and excel at all they do, Mr. H can join the world of South Dakota bloggers.

    Otherwise, he's just drinking Crow Peak beer at Larry's house where there is Moose Drool on tap.

  26. Bree S. 2014.01.29

    I suppose the opinions of out of state political trolls are to be rated more trustworthy than the opinion of a South Dakota blogger now living out of state.

    Some would likely prefer this all blow up in the general rather than the primary.

  27. Les 2014.01.29

    I don't need to know all of the suicides, if no autopsy is acceptable in an area that has been brought to my attention by an immediate family member. When they questioned the AG's office on no autopsy and tried to get one on the victim, the office replied they had great confidence in the local coroner and sheriffs dept. There has been a handful of fairly recent suicides in that area that were comparable to his family when he started asking other families of similar events.
    It is the law, all unattended deaths require an autopsy. Prove me wrong DB.

  28. Roger Cornelius 2014.01.29


    Am I to understand you correctly in that there was no autopsy on Benda? I wasn't aware of that.

  29. Les 2014.01.30

    Roger, the area I describe is not Bendas and my point is, if the AG's office doesn't expect local authorities to follow the law in other unattended deaths, why wouldn't there be suspicion about many of their actions.
    I don't believe for a minute Dick Benda wasn't autopsied. Doesn't mean I have trust in the procedure when policy and law don't seem to have much meaning.

  30. Rick 2014.01.30

    Nobody's made any “charges” anywhere, Troy, except my rhetorical charge of whitewashing. The discussion, other than the obvious and voluntary minimizing from the AG and the Governor, remains speculative because nobody in the press and the public has been allowed access to the full record for an event that occurred at the opening of the 2013 pheasant season. All we know, because the legal authorities won't tell us anything other than "trust me," is:

    - Millions are gone and unaccounted for. These millions were reportedly generated from an abuse of the EB-5 program and then secreted outside the purview of state government to a former state government agency.

    - The director of Mike Rounds’ Governor’s Office of Economic Development used Rounds’ last term in office to construct the outsourced former agency, which was his golden parachute enabling him to leave public service using government resources and to reap a fortune from the program.

    - Records detailing where the money went are definitely missing (yet, another mystery). They walked out the door of the outsourced former government agency.

    - The privatized state finance agency became a rogue, secretive, de facto bank without regulation and oversight.

    - Industry experts warned the Aberdeen beef processing plant would fail and that the market for beef was shrinking – not expanding or even stabilizing. Yet, Rounds and his people mindlessly plowed ahead and blew a fortune.

    - As the inevitable collapse was under way at NBP, efforts were made to make sure the original players remained in positions of knowledge and control until the business collapsed and closed.

    - Hundreds of innocent, trusting and hard-working families lost their jobs at Aberdeen.

    - One of the few people who could provide answers is d-e-a-d. He died Oct. 20 of a shotgun blast to the abdomen, catching people who knew him off guard and disbelieving of any suicide inclination. The autopsy's completion report very suspiciously took a month to be announced (but not made public in detail), and it relies on a curious theory that Mr. Benda used a branch to push the trigger with one hand while he held the gun barrel at his midsection with the other.

    - All roads on the GOED scam lead to Mr. Benda’s boss, Gov. Mike Rounds, who should be one of the few living people who could provide answers. He offers none and won’t because there is a U.S. Senate seat at risk. (There’s a reason why they call it “The Governor’s Office of Economic Development.” That’s because the Governor is in charge and is supposed to be aware of its daily functions.)

    - Similarly, the Rounds-begat-Daugaard administration is on the ballot this year, along with the Attorney General. They appear to be playing a game of CYA and whitewashing as a strategy to run out the clock past the June primary and the November general election and avoid public disclosure (and shame for the lawlessness and lack of basic ethics involved until last fall when Daugaard, finally, shut down the EB-5 program).

    Troy, you’re a loyal and good soldier for the state GOP with a very bright mind and keen writing ability. I’m impressed by your tactics here to deflect and minimize what is pretty damn clear to the rest of us. Nice try and God bless you for it.

    While you tell us not to speculate on the psychology of suicide, there is a large body of research that has been peer-reviewed and in practice for decades. Because this incident involves a high ranking former official in a major scandal and possible major crime, we have a right and a duty to be skeptical of what we’re hearing from Daugaard, Rounds and Jackley who seemingly have something to lose in this matter. I am not a therapist, but I have done quite a lot of reading on the matter and have some practical work experience responding to emergencies involving suicides.

    People who fear reprisals for lawless or embarrassing accusations and who choose suicide are seeking escape; the fastest available, most effective and least painful methods are most frequently used. By far, suicides by gun are done by a shot to the head because death is instantaneous. The logistics of using a shotgun to the head or neck are far, far more simple, most practical and least prone to error and prolonged suffering than the finding a branch long enough and reliable enough to push a shotgun trigger with one hand and blast a hole in the abdomen using the other hand to position the barrel. Unless the shot is positioned to accurately strike the lungs and heart (doesn’t it seem odd that someone this desperate would go to this length?), death from a blast to the abdomen can take several minutes to a few hours. It makes no sense, especially considering the degree of difficulty, that someone intent on killing himself to escape shame and prosecution would also choose to make his final hour as agonzing as possible, so as to punish himself.

    For a recent example, read the police report today on the teacher who allegedly seduced her 14-year-old student sought escape from justice and shame and tried to hang herself in the bathroom with an electric cord while police had come inside to arrest her. She didn’t succeed. Several years ago, the far more rare example of wanting to create a cruel, prolonged death by suicide involved a woman who had mental disorders and chose to sit in her tub while she downed a bottle of drain opener.

    A common reality of nearly all suicides is the complete disregard for one’s survivors. From what I’ve read about Mr. Benda is that he was close to and dearly loved his child. His final communications with others, from what we are allowed to discern, seemed positive and normal. No information indicates he intended to stop communicating with friends and family members in the near future. No signs of depression or anxiety. He had just got a great job at Heartland and seemed intent on rebuilding his future.

    Based on what we are allowed to know, except for the privileged few, you can walk through the events of October and come to a conclusion of a possible suicide, but the motive for murdering a potential star witness seems more likely. Considering that he’s even reneged on his offer to show the full findings to a select duo of the state’s media corps based on a totally irrelevant interpretation involving the old governor’s mansion rape case, we see an Attorney General reaching totally out of bounds to obstruct public awareness and access to public records.

    And now the Governor chimes in with his speculation to steer the discussion in the direction of a less probable but less controversial theory on Benda’s mysterious death, as well as the Governor's newest statement that if given a chance to do the BPH deal all over again, he would. Whitewash anyone?

  31. Roger Cornelius 2014.01.31


    Your most recent post should be a madville times topic.

  32. DB 2014.01.31

    Where do you want me to start tearing it apart?

  33. Roger Cornelius 2014.01.31

    Have at it DB, Have at it.

    I double dog dare you!!

Comments are closed.