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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published May 16 2013

Body found near Williston identified as missing rancher; man charged with murder

WILLISTON, N.D. – A Williston man is being held on $1 million bond after being charged with murder Thursday in connection with the shooting death of Jack Sjol, a rancher who had been missing for three weeks.

The North Dakota State Medical Examiner’s Office identified the man found near Williston on Tuesday by the Williams County Sheriff’s Office as Sjol, 58. A report from the medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and said Sjol died from a gunshot wound to the head and chest from a .300-caliber rifle.

Ryan Lee Stensaker, 33, Williston, is charged with murder, a class AA felony, for allegedly shooting Sjol one or more times, according to court records.

The report from the medical examiner indicated Sjol was shot at his ranch northeast of Williston, but the body was found in a private dump ground about eight miles away.

Sjol had last talked to his girlfriend at 8:30 p.m. April 24 and was reported missing the next day. Investigators with the sheriff’s office said early on in the investigation that they suspected foul play. Several other law enforcement agencies assisted with the search.

The sheriff’s office and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation discovered the body Tuesday morning east of Williston after executing a search warrant.

Sjol is a longtime Williston resident and former employee of the Williston Public Works Department. Family members who attended Stensaker’s bond hearing on Thursday declined to comment.

Williams County Assistant State’s Attorney Nathan Madden asked for Stensaker’s bail to be set at $1 million, citing previous felony convictions from 2004 and 2011 and prior instances of failing to appear for court appearances. Stensaker has prior drug-related convictions, according to court records.

Williams County prosecutors also charged Stensaker this week with being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of drug paraphernalia. Court records say investigators executed a search warrant on Stensaker’s Williams County home on Monday and found firearms and accessories, including a .300-caliber rifle.

His next court appearance is set for June 18.