Ex-mayor charged with killing 3 men became enraged after his wife told him she’d been sexually assaulted, police say

Jay Ostrem, who is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder, was the mayor of Centerville, South Dakota, from May 2009 to November 2011.

The former mayor of a small town in South Dakota charged with killing three men became enraged shortly before the triple-shooting last week when his wife told him that a neighbor had sexually assaulted her, according to court documents.

The men were killed in Centerville, a town with a population of fewer than 1,000 people about 40 miles south of Sioux Falls, on May 27.

Just before their deaths, Jay Ostrem’s wife told him that on May 23 a neighbor she had been drinking with forcibly kissed her and exposed himself, according to a probable cause affidavit written by a special agent with the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation.

The accusation prompted Ostrem to leave “raging out of the house,” the affidavit says.

The document says Ostrem’s wife denied that her husband said anything before he left and said she didn’t know where he was going or whether he was armed.

Zach Frankus called 911 and reported that his brother had been shot and killed “with a shotgun,” the affidavit says. He told the dispatcher his brother was shot by “a guy from across the street,” according to the police document.

Frankus reported that he had also been shot and then stopped communicating with the dispatcher, the affidavit says.

Former mayor of South Dakota town charged in triple-murder

When authorities entered the home, they found three men dead with apparent gunshot wounds. The affidavit identified them as Paul Frankus, 26; his brother, Zach Frankus, 21; and a third man, Timothy Richmond, 35. Richmond’s relationship with the Frankus brothers was not clear.

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Ostrem’s wife told him Paul Frankus assaulted her, according to the affidavit.

Ostrem, 64, was arrested a short time after the shootings while walking on the street where he lived. An AR-style rifle was on the ground near him, and a handgun was in his pocket, according to the affidavit. An officer saw Ostrem leaving the garage of the home where the three men were shot, the affidavit says.

Ostrem was being held in the Minnehaha County Jail on $1 million cash bond Monday on three counts of first-degree murder, according to jail records and a statement from Attorney General Marty Jackley.

A spokesperson with Jackley’s office said Monday the investigation is ongoing and declined to comment further.

Jay Ostrem  looking down
Then-Turner County sheriff’s investigator Jay Ostrem in 2009. Elisha Page / Argus Leader via AP file

It was not immediately clear Monday night whether Ostrem had retained an attorney. Ostrem’s wife could not be reached for comment.

Ostrem became Centerville’s mayor in May 2009, and the City Council accepted his resignation in November 2011, according to city documents.

Those documents did not specify why Ostrem resigned.

In July 2010, the city’s former police chief filed a federal lawsuit against Centerville and Ostrem.

“Ostrem also made gender-based comments … which were unwelcome and degrading,” the lawsuit said.

The suit alleged that he remarked about menstruation, a “man’s job” and women’s inability to be as successful as men, the suit said.

Mediation took place in July 2012, and the case was dismissed after that, according to court records. The Argus Leader of Sioux Falls reported that the two settled the suit.

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