2012 cattle killings: Arrest made in 1 case but 2nd unsolved

Farm Forum

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Authorities believe they have cracked the case of cattle shot to death in western North Dakota on the Fourth of July three years ago, but they are still trying to solve another cattle-shooting case in the eastern part of the state that same year.

Thirteen cows and a calf were gunned down in David Kluge’s pasture near the Richland County town of Hankinson in May 2012, sparking public outrage that has pushed a reward for information past $15,000. Mary Kluge and her husband think they know who is responsible for the shooting, but there has been no arrest and they are getting frustrated.

“We’ve got ideas, but I don’t know if they (law enforcement) have got anything,” Mary Kluge said.

Such investigations take time, said Fred Frederikson, an investigator with the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association who has been working on the Richland County case and the July 2012 case in Oliver County in which an arrest was finally made last week.

“There’s a lot of interviews, a lot of follow-ups, just kind of keeping at it,” Frederikson told The Associated Press. “We just kept following up on every lead we got. It was a long process.”

Dillon Gappert, 27, an iron worker from Hensler, has been charged with felony criminal mischief in the killing of nine cattle owned by Miles and Marjorie Tomac and John and Kim Dixon. Frederikson says in an affidavit that semi-automatic pistol shell casings, tire tracks and a witness tie Gappert to the crime.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Gappert’s attorney, Chad McCabe, said in a statement that his client denies the allegations.

“(Gappert) was with his family celebrating Independence Day at the time and never shot any cattle, nor did he possess or use a Ruger Mark 1 semi-automatic pistol,” McCabe said.

The Stockmen’s Association, which has pledged up to $10,000 of a $27,000 reward — a state record — in the Oliver County case, is relieved to finally see an arrest, Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson said.

“That’s our whole mission, to protect livestock producers’ livelihoods and make sure justice is served,” she said. “We’re very pleased to make it to this step in the process.”

Miles Tomac said he’s had no dealings with Gappert, doesn’t know the man, and is perplexed by the senseless killing of his animals.

“Why me? Why John Dixon? I don’t have a clue,” he said.

Meanwhile, Frederikson said, investigators also have “persons of interest” in the Richland County case but an arrest is not imminent.

“You keep trying to dig up something, find more evidence. It’s time-consuming, and you don’t always get it,” Frederikson said.