Melmer E-Mail Indicates Intent to Come Through Platte Night of Westerhuis Crime

An eager reader notices a salient detail that hasn’t been mentioned much in the rest of the media. Let’s review the Melmer e-mail included in Special Agent John Barnes’s probable cause affidavit laying out the grounds for charging Mid-Central Educational Cooperative exec Dan Guericke with conspiracy and falsification of evidence:

excerpt, Special Agent John Barnes, Probable Cause Affidavit, State V. Guericke, 2016.03.10.
excerpt, Special Agent John Barnes, Probable Cause Affidavit, State V. Guericke, 2016.03.10.

On Monday, September 14, 2015, Rick Melmer tells Scott Westerhuis and Dan Guericke that he’ll be coming through Platte on Wednesday night.

Wednesday night. Wednesday, September 16, 2015, the day Dan Guericke and Scott Westerhuis learned the state was axing Mid-Central’s lucrative GEAR UP contract, the money that Westerhuis and his wife apparently funneled into their corporate web and into their own lavish home and personal expenses. Wednesday, September 16, the night Scott Westerhuis raced home from Takini to apparently kill his wife and children and incinerate his house and any evidence of his crimes therein.

If anyone can tell me that Rick Melmer drives a white pickup truck, I might have to revisit A.G. Jackley’s pheasant story.

But no matter what Rick Melmer drives, Melmer’s statement of his travel plans in his September 14 e-mail behooves DCI to ask Melmer, “Where were you on the night of Wednesday, September 16, 2015?” and, “What further communication did you have with Scott Westerhuis and/or Dan Guericke after your September 14 morning e-mail?”

56 Responses to Melmer E-Mail Indicates Intent to Come Through Platte Night of Westerhuis Crime

  1. Eve Fisher

    If nothing else, he might know where the safe went…

  2. Rick Melmer must be breathing a sigh of relief. The state’s cancellation of MCEC’s Gear Up contract that day probably saved him from signing a backdated contract for Guericke on his way through town. Or did he sign one before the cancellation? We shall see.

  3. Jackie Jessop Rising

    Good catch by the eager reader!!!

  4. Wayne Pauli

    I think the definition of “through” in the email means a segment of time, not a location.

    Like this: I will not be at work through Sunday night, but will be back on Monday morning.

    Just wordsmithing. Thoughts?

  5. Hey there were only around 1,300 other people in the general vicinity that night too… so we should consider them all suspects in a mass-murder because obviously it makes sense to prolong this conspiracy theory than to believe the evidence that continues to show that Scott Westerhuis was guilty of this horrific crime.

    I’m sure the man who does own the white truck really wants his story to be called into question due to some wild accusation to suggestion that is trying to continue to push this to be more than it was. So yes it must be more plausible that Melmer paid a pheasant breeder to cover for him… because that makes sense.

    Fact – these murders are what prompted this deep investigation. Had Westerhuis not killed his family, this would just be another case of someone misappropriating tax money for personal gain and would have disappeared from the media within a few days or weeks. But because of the murders and because of the press surrounding the crime, the public has demanded answers… and the investigation has stretched far beyond just one man or one family.

    To suggest Melmer could be in any way guilty of murder without a single thread of evidence is nothing short of National Enquirer type of reporting. Not your best work Cory.

    What you obviously seem to overlook is the incorrect interpretation of the term “through”. As in… “I am currently traveling, and will continue to be traveling until Wednesday night so I won’t be easily available, but I will be in Sioux Falls Thursday and Friday if you actually want to talk”.

    In this context, it does not mean he will be traveling through the middle of Platte which wouldn’t be likely anyway since it isn’t exactly on the way from Pierre to Sioux Falls. But hey – misinterpreting written emails is always fun if it randomly accuses someone of mass murder am I right??

  6. Yeah, on further reading I don’t necessarily think the e-mail means he was traveling through Platte, but rather he was traveling through the day of Wednesday.

  7. Geez, lighten up Craig. We’re all free to interpret the email differently … and I admit my interpretation differs from Cory’s. I do, however, agree with what Cory writes in the last paragraph of this post. I also wish we had a better understanding of what exactly Melmer did to reap so much. He was paid $185,000 in 2013-2014 by Mid Central and $233,000 in 2014-2015. For what? The superintendent of the Sioux Falls school district makes about $220,000. What role did Melmer play with Mid-Central to earn that much?

  8. mike from iowa

    Care to tell us how many of those 1300 people had direct, provable connections to the scandal And the deceased? I’m thinking of a number between a few and not many.

  9. Oh, Wayne! Good counterinterpretation. I’m open to either possibility.

  10. Dave you won’t find me defending what Melmer was paid…. and the more we learn the more shady it all sounds. It seems a lot of people were being paid questionable sums with little to show for it. There are millions of dollars misappropriated which SHOULD have gone to helping Native American kids prepare for and succeed in college. Too bad so many lost sight of that goal.

    That said, suggesting or even accusing Melmer of murder is another story. Especially when the only “evidence” is a potential misunderstanding of word choice in a vague email.

    @mfi – It seems numerous people in that area were/are associated with MCEC or the Westerhuis family. Per the logic being displayed here we may as well assume they are all murderers. Nonsense.

  11. Whoa, whoa, whoa, Craig! I do not suggest Melmer committed murder. I do suggest that if the eager reader’s interpretation of that line is correct and Wayne’s is not, we have a highly interesting convergence of Mid-Central players in Charles Mix County on one very strange and serious night. Any number of things could have happened—conversations, transfer and/or destruction of files, you name it. If I were a DCI agent, I’d be asking questions of anybody who was remotely connected with MCEC and AIII; I’d be asking additional questions of anybody who was in or passing through Platte after Secretary Schopp brought the scam crashing down on September 16, not because I’m trying to find a murder weapon, but because I’m trying to find a safe that is still missing and that the AG is still asking the public to help find.

  12. Add a word time:
    I will be traveling through “PLATTE” Wednesday night but in SF on Thursday…
    I will be traveling “MONDAY” through Wednesday night but in SF on Thursday…
    When you add a word, the sentence takes on a new meaning. When you leave it alone it’s quite vague. Neither PLATTE of MONDAY are in the e-mail.

  13. We shouldn’t assume that nobody (the investigators) bothered to follow-up on the whereabouts of the key players. What we should assume is that they have done so but that level of detail isn’t something which can be readily shared during a short press conference, and data like phone records or cell tower locations isn’t data which is publicly available.

    Knowing that emails and phone records have already been examined (since contents of both are part of these affidavits), had there been a cell phone of any of those involved near Platte that fateful night, rest assured they would follow-up. I don’t find such armchair investigating to add much value to the story. It sounds a bit less like Woodward and Bernstein and a lot more like Nancy Grace and TMZ.

  14. Lisa Millar

    I’m Rick’s sister , I live 13 miles from the Westerhuis’ home and many years ago I owned a white pick up…..maybe I helped him do it?

    Kailey Westerhuis was in my Kindergarten classroom 3 years ago. I loved that little girl. You are rubbing salt in the wounds of this community by slandering innocent people in your headlines. You are unbelievably awful. In your comments, you claim to NOT be accusing Rick of murder, yet your headline would lead to what assumption?


  15. Wayne, good point either interpretation could be plausible!

    Craig, I don’t necessarily agree that we should assume all due diligence is done in this investigation. Consider the voicemails that were not recovered from verizon in a timely manner and lost. Recovery and securing of digital communications in a case such as this should be first priority and protocol for a competent investigative team.

  16. If I were an investigator presented with this evidence, Lisa, I would ask exactly the questions I lay out above. Anything less would open the possibility of missing important leads on who talked to whom, who gave what to whom, and where that safe might be. I’d have trouble sleeping if I didn’t ask. Asking such questions slanders no one and rubs no salt. Don’t let emotion get in the way of solving the crime, finding the missing public money, and laying blame on the real criminals.

  17. Nick Nemec

    I wonder how some people can sleep at night knowing they were taking money meant to help native kids go to college.

  18. Lisa Millar

    I’m sorry I let the emotion of losing a former student to murder and you accusing my brother of committing that murder get in the way of seeing that you truly were an investigator in a prior life.
    Nothing I say will make a difference to you. You don’t care that you have nothing to go on, yet you print headlines to get readers. I’ve included the definition of slander for your future reference. Please use it and consider your further actions in this blog.

    the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.
    “he is suing the TV network for slander”
    make false and damaging statements about (someone).
    “they were accused of slandering the head of state”
    synonyms: defame (someone’s character), blacken someone’s name, tell lies about, speak ill/evil of, sully someone’s reputation, libel, smear, cast aspersions on, spread scandal about, besmirch, tarnish, taint; More

  19. MCEC lied and children died.

  20. Melmer was making more than the governor of SD. Heck, Melmer was making more than the governor of MN.

    Isn’t it ’bout time to vote some Democrats into the legislature, South Dakotans? To clean house, get some open record laws in, to just get the dirtiness out of your whole state?

  21. Whoa, Lisa, let’s stop manufacturing reality. I did not accuse anyone of committing murder. Read my words carefully.

  22. I, for one, do not think that Mr. H is trying to become this TMZ of blogs.

    But if I said “traveling through Friday night” means I will be traveling up until Friday night. Who goes through Platte to get to Sioux Falls?

  23. Cory – I had the same reaction as Lisa although you’re right in that you didn’t actually accuse anyone of murder. You didn’t use that term, although in the context of the greater story and how you have been somewhat reluctant to buy into the official Westerhuis murder-suicide story and the fact that you are going so far as to inquire about the feasibility of Melmer driving a white pickup which was seen in Platte around the time the fire started… well I don’t think it is unreasonable to interpret your words as Melmer being deeply involved in greater crimes.

    Even your headline is based upon one possible interpretation of Melmer’s words, but I would argue that interpretation is less reasonable than simply assuming he would be using the term “through” to describe time… not location. I say that for a number of reasons, primarily because it is doubtful he would have any reason to be passing through Platte, and second because I have no doubt that his whereabouts have already been examined via the subpoena for phone records and emails. Yet your headline remains – almost as if you are suggesting something deeper.

    So perhaps Lisa and I are reading too far into your words. In which case perhaps in the future you could overtly indicate what exactly you feel Melmer (or anyone else) could potentially be guilty of.

  24. Just think if there had been a whistleblower what the hero he/she could have been. South Dakota might have had four children alive today also. Never be afraid to speak out, never. You could save a life.

  25. Bill Dithmer

    This is the dumbest thread I’ve read for six months.

    The Blindman

  26. As the elections approach the blogging post title sensationalism, the newspaper headlines and the rhetoric will grow to a dull roar in Aberdeen. So suspects grudznick.

  27. Stop corruption in South Dakota, you could save a child (or two)

  28. Very valid point Jenny. A lot of people should feel they have blood on their hands.

  29. Mr. Craig, we should not insinuate things for which there are no facts backing them up. This Mr. Melmer fellow might have a white pickup or a green pickup or no pickup at all. Until somebody proves one way or another, you might as well say that grudznick might have a Santa Sled pulled by 3 cloven hoofed dwarf goats. You don’t know, but I might.

  30. mike from iowa

    Melmer only said he was travelling through Wednesday night,not Friday.

  31. Mike, you are from Iowa so I can’t make it that far, because I am only traveling through Friday night. That’s tonight. I’m traveling through tonight. Friday. Not through Platte. Nobody travels through Platte.

  32. Laurie Meis

    I agree that a person should not insinuate things for which there are no facts to back them up. However, Mr. Heidelberger, you went way past “insinuating” that Melmer was planning on going through Platte. You flat out said that he was. Libel? Possibly.

    There are other insinuations in the story that you can probably worm your way out of. But, not the headline and paragraph 2–those are stated as fact.

    Mr. Heidelberger, own words may come back to bite you on this one. If you are “open to either possibility” of the word “through,” then you have a problem with your headline and paragraph 2.

  33. Could anyone be be charged with evidence tampering given that the westerhuis phones were shut off so quick? Who knows what kind of voicemail were left from those currently indicted?

  34. mike from iowa

    So,grudz,what you are trying to say is there is no travel in or through Platte on Friday nights? I got it.

  35. What a hot mess of a post on your part caheidelberger. One would assume that if you are running for legislature, you would want to be taken seriously. This post reflects poor judgement.

  36. Perhaps, Erwin… although I think “hot mess” overstates it. We’re trying to figure out the meaning of a sentence. My initial interpretation of “through” may be wrong. Clarifying the meaning of that word in that e-mail and finding out what other communications may have taken place between Melmer and other Mid-Central players is essential to finding out what happened. I’ll leave this post here so everyone can inquire and decide.

  37. One might just wonder, given the level of speculation by bloggers here, if it behooves DCI to ask many of us “Where were you on the night of Wednesday, September 16, 2015?” and, “Did you have communication with Scott Westerhuis and/or Dan Guericke?”

    That’s the sort of speculation and insinuation that gets one’s hat handed to them on the floors of the legislatures in debates, I am sure. That, and French math.

    I’m just sayin…

  38. Mr, Heidelberger, I became aware of Dakota Free Press a couple of months ago. I am so pleased that there is a liberal voice in SD. I always tell friends and relatives that I’m so liberal I’m probably a socialist. HOWEVER, I just read the “I will be travelling through” email by Mr. Melmer. Seriously, dude??? Where does Melmer say or even imply that he will be travelling through Platte? And, then, you compound the issue with the “white pickup” line. You are a strong and articulate voice for those of us who feel disenfranchised in a single party state, but you need to protect your credibility. Your voice is important, so please, please knock off the melodrama.

  39. it may not be unreasonable to misread melmer’s sentence, given the context, penned in response to westerhuis’ 3 a.m. email. it is not clear and could turn out to be self serving.

    citizens having been burned last year by jackley’s failure to establish deeper facts in the EB5 fraud after joop bollen removed records and federal immigration service had to investigate and threat to remove SD’s authority to conduct such business after the earlier tragedy of Round’s cabinet secretary’s death near Lake Andes. It is possible that fraud involves some $600,000,000.00 of mismanaged cash flow by the governor’s office and rounds’ and Regents agents. We still do not know and the state has not been transparent and an election may have been tainted. big stuff.

    lisa, I truly am saddened by the horrific experience platte area residents have had. is it true melmer made something like $500 k from MCEC above and beyond his substantial Mitchell day job superintendent’s salary? You can see why some people wonder what was going on.

    we know many people on the west end of the state and are saddened and fear for any involvement that may surface.

    did locals sound any alarms about the westerhuis’ spending and construction beyond ordinary appearances?

    it would be good if you locals would talk to the press and assist in fully vetting this crime out to the whole state, who obviously shares your grief and anxiety.

  40. Cory was asking what was Melmer talking to Westerhuis about?
    And snarkeling at the absurdity of the white pickup connected to the situation.


    Your brother ripped off scholarship money from poor native kids. And he knew Westerhuis was stealing. And others knew he was stealing. Poor Rick being slandered? Seriously? Bunch of thieves. Defrauding federal program….felony. Greed.

  41. Oh I almost forgot.
    It is my understanding Rick Melmer gave the initial contract to MCEC when he was with Dept of Ed. Then went over and robbed it. Nice, real nice.

  42. Nick Nemec

    Rick Melmer is up to his neck in dirty money. It might all be OK with the proper CYA contracts in place but it sure smells. How many part time jobs in South Dakota pay $500,000 over two years?When it smells like dog poop someone usually stepped in dog poop.

  43. mike from iowa

    Melmer could easily have used a less ambiguous word or phrase if he meant he would be driving and out of contact until Thursday or Friday. He could have been less ambiguous if he meant to be passing through Platte,too.

  44. Roger Cornelius

    Was Lisa Millar, Rick’s sister, on the payroll for MCEC or any other phony co-op or corporation that he set up?

  45. Roger, a quick search shows no evidence of Lisa Millar working for MCEC in the MCEC minutes from June 2011 through the present.

  46. geez, way to go guys…she’ll never contribute here again!

  47. In my entire history of blogging, I don’t think anyone challenging my blog posts has ever accurately used the word “libel.” Instead they wave it like a chainsaw they don’t know how to use, hoping I’ll be scared.


    That straight line demonstrates the amount of trembling.

    Laurie tries it too but establishes no case. I read a text, as did my commenter. We see a sentence that can be reasonably interpreted the way my headline interprets it. If Melmer used words that can be taken two different ways, he can come here and say, “Sorry, guys, my traveling didn’t take me through Platte that week.”

    Where was Rick Melmer on Wednesday, September 16, and Thursday, September 17, 2015? Perfectly reasonable question. Given that Melmer was party to falsified contracts, that’s a question DCI shold already have asked.

  48. Roger Cornelius

    Agreed Cory
    The words libel and slander are used to threaten the user, they are also used in an attempt to end debate, they are basically idle words.
    You don’t hear of many successful prosecutions libel and slander cases, if any at all.
    I seriously doubt Rick Melmer wants to go into any courtroom concerning Gear Up.

  49. Unfortunately, voters generally make a superficial decision based on things like “headlines.” Or perception. One perceived as an inflammatory fellow of the melodrama sort, as Mr. dg notes above, is really posting statements no different than some of Mr. PP’s, or Mr. Sibby’s or even those of my good friend Mr. kurtz.

    As the field of people running for the legislatures solidifies I expect some will rant more dramatically, and some with put forth meaningful statements of thought based on fact and not veiled accusations.

    But that’s just what grudznick thinks.

  50. Exactly, Roger. Asking the questions above brought smart people like Wayne and others to say, “No, that phrase could mean something different,” and we’ve applied our intelligence to that question. Having the debate is good; shutting down the debate is the emotional response of people who don’t want questions asked.

  51. I am reading many posts from your blog for the first time today. You have an interesting (non) bipartisan outlook.

    Regarding this post….I have many questions–Is Melmer being charged with a crime? (I’ve heard of only the 3 being charged.) What is he guilty of? By reading the headline/article it appears you want to tie him to the crime scene, even though you commented that you don’t think he killed anyone? Did I read it wrong or did his email say he thought they should all “be honest”? And, it didn’t appear that he was traveling “through Platte” but “through Wednesday”. That’s my interpretation.

    Also, if words like “libel” are being used in the comments on this post, I’m seeing that as founded from what I’ve read. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt people who used that word toward you would think that it would “end” a debate–especially from what I’ve seen you write! It will only fuel your fire!

    Lastly, I do know Melmer was never the Supt of Mitchell, Leslie. You may want to get your facts straight before commenting. Actually, quite a few of you folks commenting should probably do that. Spike, has he been charged with theft? Roger, did he set up phony coorporations? If so, what are they? And, I disagree with you furthermore, Roger…I bet Melmer would go to any court about Gear Up. He interviewed with Angela, which is more than many others have done. She even omits and twists words in these types of interviews just to make things more interesting. He has nothing to hide as far as I can tell.

    I actually know Rick (and no, I didn’t work at MidCentral) and that caused this post to catch my eye. If he’s guilty of a crime, then they will charge him. As far as I can tell from all I’ve read outside of this blog, he’s guilty of nothing. Maybe you should leave the finding of the “real criminals” to the people who are trained to do it? Just a suggestion.

    Now, I’m guessing your commenters will bully me into the corner like they did his sister?

  52. I won’t bully you into any corner, Abigail.

    You are correct that, to the best of my knowledge, Rick Melmer has not been charged with any crime. That statement is consistent with everything I’ve said so far.

    Your blip about “libel” has the same flavor as others, a weak attempt to intimidate but not substantiated by law or any specific text here.

    I would like to hear whatever words Angela Kennecke has omitted or twisted. Please substantiate that claim by sending us examples. I welcome Rick Melmer to do so himself by reporting exactly what he said to the press and exactly what the press cut and twisted.

    Note, again, that I twist nothing. I point to the exact words on the record and note what they may mean. There are two reasonable interpretations of the phrase “traveling through,” spatial and temporal, which I have invited folks to discuss here.

  53. I think I speak for some of the residents of Platte when I say that they are tired of Angela (note I said “some”, not all). She is a big advocate for making herself look like she’s saving that town from itself. Plain and simple, Platte can’t really recover with her twice a week newscasts rehashing the murder/suicide. To so many, it’s painful and difficult and they’d like to move on.

    And honestly, do you think Rick sat down for a 3 minute interview and that we saw everything he said in that 3 minutes that was aired? I’m sure things were cut out and I’m guessing, since Angela loves this story and it’s scandal, she included the things that would keep the story rolling….and only those things. I have nothing to substantiate that. I only have a hunch because I have watched most of what she’s reported about MidCentral and this story.

    The reason I mentioned the interview in the first place is because I haven’t seen anyone else who’s name is being “mentioned” in your blog do interviews. Aside from the Governor and Schopps’ interview, I can’t think of any. I think it speaks volumes about his willingness to be forward with the public that he did any interview at all, and that he says he wants things to be handled honestly in the email. Do you disagree?

  54. Abigail, should Angela Kennecke not come to Platte to look for information? It’s a lot easier to argue that folks who are tired of her coverage should just turn off their sets or switch to another channel (try public radio—no sensationalism there, if that’s what folks feel the need to escape) than to argue that a journalist should not follow a story of significant public interest.

    I’m completely certain that Melmer said much more than the comments KELO aired. When I talk to reporters, I know full well I’m going to give them 20–30 minutes of material and that they’ll pick out maybe 30 seconds that are air-worthy. But as you acknowledge, you have nothing to substantiate your claim that Kennecke twisted any words or omitted any information that would have affected our understanding of the key points of the story. We must not get into the Trumpian habit of just dismissing the media completely because of the necessary practice of boiling interviews down to the key points. We need those who feel they have been misrepresented by twisting and or omission to give us the full story. (And you know, if Melmer has a full explanation of things he says KELO has gotten wrong, I have no word limits here.)

    For that matter, you know what would be awesome frosting to this whole conversation? If Rick Melmer himself came to this comment section and said, “Traveling through Wednesday night—I was traveling, out of town, out of contact, until Wednesday night. I did not go through Platte… you meatheads.”

    True, Melmer has been more forthcoming than other players. As I recall, Joe Graves also sat down for an interview with KELO. Phelps hasn’t, but his lawyer is throwing grenades. Kelly Duncan said a few words than ran away when things got complicated.

    But what Melmer said—the words that have been put on the public record—left plenty of questions. I welcome answers here from all who are willing and able to provide them.

  55. Again, I have nothing to substantiate this….but, I’m guessing Melmer doesn’t read your blog. Have you ever tried to contact him and ask these questions?

  56. “I have nothing to substantiate this…” again, a key difference between my blogging and some responses I get.

    I hate to bother people at home. Given the friends and relatives who’ve come to comment, it seems unlikely Melmer’s not aware of the coverage. Lines are open….