21
Nov
13

Jackley: Bende died of self-inflicted gunshot

South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development Secretary Richard Benda ends months of speculation and reveals Hyperion Resources, Inc., as the “Gorilla Project” that has plans to locate an oil refinery in Union County. Benda addressed a standing-room-only crowd of media and interested citizens at a news conference Wednesday, June 13, 2007, in the Union County Courthouse in Elk Point. (Photo by David Lias)

South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development Secretary Richard Benda ends months of speculation and reveals Hyperion Resources, Inc., as the “Gorilla Project” that has plans to locate an oil refinery in Union County. Benda addressed a standing-room-only crowd of media and interested citizens at a news conference Wednesday, June 13, 2007, in the Union County Courthouse in Elk Point. (Photo by David Lias)

PIERRE, S.D  – Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that the Division of Criminal
Investigation has concluded its investigation into the death of Richard Benda, Sioux Falls.

On October 22, 2013, Benda was found dead in rural Charles Mix County by a family member, which
was immediately reported to local law enforcement. The scene was secured by law enforcement at which
time the Division of Criminal Investigation was contacted and asked to conduct a death investigation. It was determined that date of death was Sunday, Oct. 20.

The autopsy, conducted by the Forensic Pathologist, Minnehaha County Coroner indicates that the cause
of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the abdomen and ruled a suicide. No physical or digital
evidence has been found to indicate foul play.  The investigation scene reconstruction, interviews
conducted, evidence collected at the scene and forensic testing do not indicate foul play and are consistent
with the forensic autopsy findings. The forensic testing included, but was not limited to firearm
functioning, ballistic testing, DNA and fingerprinting.

The Attorney General would like to thank the Charles Mix County Sheriff’s Office and federal authorities
for their assistance during the death investigation. The Attorney General again offers condolences to the
family and friends of Richard Benda during this most difficult time and appreciates the public further
respecting these private family matters. If you have any additional questions please contact Sara Rabern at
605-773-3215.

Benda served as secretary of Tourism and State Development from 2006 to 2010 under former Gov. Mike Rounds.

The day after Benda’s funeral, according to the Associated Press, Gov. Dennis Daugaard acknowledged that an investigation was underway into the Governor’s Office of Economic Development involving possible financial misconduct prior to his administration. Daugaard said there has also been a federal investigation.

After leaving state government, Benda served as loan monitor for the Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen, a project spurred by funds from the federal EB-5 immigration program. Northern Beef is now under federal bankruptcy protection.

The South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development for years contracted with the privately held SDRC Inc. to administer the federal EB-5 program, in which foreign investors can secure permanent residency for as little as $500,000. The program helped fund several large projects in the state.

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