Former South Dakota Mayor Arrested for Triple Murder in His Hometown

The Daily Beast/X
The Daily Beast/X

The former mayor of a South Dakota city was arrested Monday for allegedly shooting dead three people in the community he once represented, including a man who was still speaking with a 911 dispatcher at the time of his death.

Jay Ostrem, 64, faces a trio of first-degree murder charges and is being held on $1 million bail in Sioux Falls—about 45 minutes northeast of where police said the shooting took place, in rural Turner County.

The South Dakota Attorney General’s office said in a statement that shots were fired at a home in Centerville, a town of less than 1,000 inhabitants, around 10 p.m. Monday. Authorities did not provide a motive for the crime, but local news outlets, including South Dakota Searchlight, reported that a probable cause affidavit said Ostrem justified the shooting by claiming it was in retaliation to a sexual assault on his wife.

That document reportedly added that Zach Frankus called 911 to report that his brother had been gunned down by “a guy from across the street,” and that the gunman had returned home. Police said Frankus remained on the phone with a dispatcher when a gunshot rang out and Frankus yelled that he was shot. After that, police said Frankus went silent.

“After some time on the phone with the dispatcher, the male calling party then reported he had been shot,” the affidavit said, reported Sioux Falls Live. “Shortly after he reported he had been shot, the male stopped communicating with the dispatcher.”

The outlet reported that the first officer to arrive on the scene was a game warden with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. That officer said he witnessed Ostrem leave the shooting scene. A second officer arrived shortly after, having traveled 12 miles from nearby Beresford, and helped take Ostrem into custody after he initially refused commands. Those officers reported that Ostrem’s breath smelled of alcohol, and that there was blood on his left hand, reported Sioux Falls Live.

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Police reportedly added that Ostrem possessed three guns at the scene, including a handgun, a shotgun, and an “AR style rifle.” Spent shotgun shells were also found on the ground.

The affidavit identified the victims as Paul Frankus, 26, Zach Frankus, 21, and Timothy Richmond, 35. It’s unclear what Richmond’s relationship to the Frankus brothers was, if any, but each reportedly died inside the same home on Centerville’s main street.

The Argus Leader reported that Ostrem’s wife told police that Paul Frankus had been drinking with her on Thursday when he allegedly exposed his genitals to her and tried to kiss her.

It was that alleged assault that appears to have set Ostrem off, the Leader reported. Citing his wife, the affidavit claims he was seen “raging out of the house” just moments after learning of the alleged incident on Monday and the three men were fatally shot shortly after.

Photos from the scene showed that Ostrem’s front yard had a grill, lawn chair, American flag, and British flag. A profile on X in Ostrem’s name showed he regularly re-shared conservative memes, pro-gun posts, and was an avid supporter of Donald Trump.

“BS in Political Science, Veteran, Retired LEO, happily married to my British Lass,” his bio reads. “#MAGA #NRA #BREXIT An actual real person.”

Reports said Ostrem worked in law enforcement for more than two decades in Wyoming and South Dakota, and that he was mayor of Centerville approximately 15 years ago.

In that role, Searchlight reported that he was sued for sexual harassment in federal court by the town’s former police chief, who claimed she’d been subjected to unwelcome sexual comments for more than a year before she was fired from the gig. That lawsuit was settled in 2012.

If convicted on the murder counts, Sioux Falls Live reports that state law would make Ostrem eligible to be sentenced to death.

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