HIGHMORE, S.D. — Nick and Victor Nemec have returned to this straight stretch of asphalt again and again in the last few days.
Nick points down to a long shadow of a streak that has soaked into the highway.
"That's a blood mark," he said, his tone matter of fact.
His cousin's blood.
Their cousin, Joe Boever, was struck and killed here at about 10:30 p.m. Sept. 12 by Jason Ravnsborg, the South Dakota attorney general, driving on this patch of U.S. Highway 14 after attending a GOP dinner in Redfield earlier that day. The Nemec brothers were asked to identify Boever's body late Sunday — the next day.
Now the two brothers, who live nearby, are back again at the scene of the crash. They're conducting their own investigation, pondering marks left by law enforcement and walking journalist after journalist along the north ditch of the busy road where their cousin died.
Nick and Victor Nemec have turned this crash site into a living memorial, not as a place to remember, but a place of challenge. The state Highway Patrol's investigation into the crash continues. The Nemec brothers are here to make sure their cousin gets justice.
"I want to keep the heat on, seriously," said Nick, 62.
On Tuesday, Nick trailed a flat-bed truck hauling what appeared to be Ravnsborg's wrecked red 2011 Ford Taurus to a nearby state lot, trying to snap photos of it before he was turned away by Highway Patrol troopers.
Nick ran his own speed tests, slamming the gas in his small red pickup when he reached the 65 mph sign, near the beginning of the crash scene, zooming past the site where his cousin died, estimating it took much further to hit the speed limit.
On Thursday night, tipped off that investigators were back at the scene, he drove close with his high-beam headlights on, trying to catch a glimpse before once more getting turned away by troopers. When asked what he was doing there, Nick had a simple answer.
"Trying to get justice for my cousin," he said he responded.
He used a tape measure to check the height of the grass where he thinks his cousin's body landed after the crash. Just 8 inches, he found. The spot, just 2 feet off the pavement. Hard to miss, even searching in the dark with a cellphone light, as the attorney general has claimed he did after colliding with what he says he thought was a deer.
"Seems to me nobody was looking very hard Saturday night," he said.
'We've been dogging'
The state has released only limited information about the ongoing investigation, headed up by the Highway Patrol but conducted in conjunction with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation to avoid ethical concerns. That's because South Dakota's equivalent investigators work directly for Ravnsborg, who is still on the job.
Gov. Kristi Noem and Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price have promised full transparency on the investigation in due time.
"I kind of wonder if she said that since we’ve been dogging," said Victor, 58.
The funeral for Boever, 55, is set for Thursday, Sept. 24 in Dell Rapids.
Nick Nemec takes a reporter over to the site where his cousin was likely walking late Saturday night, from his Highmore home back to his pickup he had run into the ditch earlier in the day. Here, the tire tracks. There, the hay bale Boever struck with his pickup.
Not every reporter has shown up in person. Nemec ticks off the national and international news organizations who have spoken to him since his cousin died, since he and Victor became the faces of Boever's grieving, extended family.
"Let’s put it this way, I haven’t gotten a lot of farm work done this week," he said. "But keeping the story in the news is a higher priority than farm work right now."
Just then another reporter pulls up, here for a Nemec brothers-guided tour of the scene where their cousin was killed. Nick shakes hands with the one reporter, then moves to the next, gesturing to the ground.
"Anyway, see these tire tracks right here …”
Fugleberg can be followed on Twitter at @jayfug and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 605-777-3357.