Dave Kolpack, Associated Press , Published July 01 2012
Man promotes reward fund to catch killer of North Dakota cattle
Richard Clise, of Camano Island, Wash., decided to chip in $1,000 after hearing about the grisly scene where 13 cows and a calf were gunned down on May 14 in David Kluge's pasture near the North and South Dakota border. Clise, who has family members in the cattle business, said he gave out of anger.
“I can't stand really rude behavior like that,” Clise said.
The 64-year-old Clise wants Kluge's story to generate the same kind of publicity that spurred sympathetic supporters to give over $500,000 to 68-year-old bus monitor Karen Klein, who was maliciously taunted by four seventh-grade boys.
That's ambitious. The cattle reward stands at $2,500.
“The only way to do it is for other people to donate and get the reward fund up high enough that somebody rats them out,” Clise said. “That's the only way it's going to happen, unless they get lucky.”
Investigators may need some luck. Larry Leshovsky, the Richland County sheriff, said Friday there are no suspects in the case. He's waiting for the state crime lab to analyze ballistics evidence, which could provide the only clues at this point.
“The people of interest have all been interviewed. No other leads have come in at this point,” Leshovsky said.
The reward pool was started by the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, which put up $1,000 from a standing fund that goes back to the 1920s when members chipped in $5 each to help round up cattle rustlers. Steven Wyum, of Rutland, added $500 to the pot earlier this week.
Fred Frederikson, a brand inspector with the stockmen's group and one of the investigators in Kluge's case, said the bigger the reward, the better.
“It loosens a lot of lips,” he said. “These shootings are a tough deal to investigate. You need all the help you can get from the general public.”
Kluge's land, eight miles south of Hankinson and less than two miles from the North and South Dakota border, has been in his family for more than a century. He discovered the dead cattle in a pasture about three miles from his house. It's bordered by a fence with “No Trespassing” signs.
“It was a slaughter,” Kluge said, pointing to red flags placed by detectives to mark the spots where cattle were found. “The investigators told me these cattle did not have a pleasant death. They suffered.”
Investigators estimate the total loss to be about $30,000. Kluge said that doesn't take into account the setback in breeding, or what he called “100 years of genetics.” Frederikson, a lifelong rancher, said it's more than money.
“The cattle guys, they're out there when's it 20 below feeding them, they're out there when that calf is born, pulling it out of the mud, and they're out there when it's 100 above sitting on a tractor baling hay,” Frederikson said. “It ain't a business, it's a love.”
It's not the first time Kluge's animals have been targeted. Investigators are looking into a possible link between the shooting of the cattle and the shooting last December of a donkey owned by Kluge, who would not comment when asked about a possible suspect or motive.
Kluge said there was one bright spot among the commotion. One of his orphaned calves, since named Missy, refused to drink from a bottle, so one of Kluge's neighbors volunteered two mother goats and a male llama to act as foster parents.
Missy takes turns drinking from the goats, which are the same size as the calf and are placed on a platform for feeding. The llama provides protection.
“To see that happen under such traumatic circumstances has been comforting,” Kluge said.