Slain ND man's family see no connections to suspects
WILLISTON - Family members of Williston man Jack Sjol are still searching for answers after prosecutors here charged five additional people in connection with the 58-year-old rancher's death.
"We don't understand why Jack would have any connection with these people," daughter-in-law Christy Sjol said Tuesday after court appearances of three defendants.
Court records filed in Williams County District Court indicate that prosecutors believe three men conspired to kill Sjol, two people allowed his body to be hidden on their property and a woman withheld information from investigators.
Sjol was last heard from April 24 and was missing until his body was found in Williams County three weeks later.
All defendants are local residents except one, who is from Washington state. The investigation is ongoing.
Northwest Judicial District Judge Joshua Rustad on Tuesday set bail at $1 million cash or bond for 31-year-old Jeremy Weyrauch of Williston, who is charged with Class AA felony conspiracy to commit murder.
Ronald Gibbons, 27, faces the same conspiracy charge and is currently being held in Pierce County, Wash., after he was extradited there from North Dakota for an unrelated charge. Gibbons is expected to return to North Dakota later this summer after he completes a sentence in Washington, Williams County Sgt. Detective Amanda McNamee said.
Court records say Weyrauch, Gibbons and 33-year-old Ryan Lee Stensaker "agreed to commit the murder of Jack Sjol."
Stensaker, Williston, was arrested May 16 and charged with Class AA felony murder. Stensaker, who remains in the Williams County Jail, is accused of shooting Sjol one or more times, according to documents.
A medical examiner's report said Sjol died from a gunshot wound to the head and chest from a .300 caliber rifle. 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 8 miles away.
Judge Rustad also set bail Tuesday at $25,000 cash or bond for 31-year-old Issac Steen, charged with facilitation of murder, and 29-year-old Amber Jensen, charged with hindering law enforcement, both Class C felony charges.
An arrest warrant was issued for 33-year-old Teresa Steen, Issac's sister, also on the charge of facilitation of murder. Steen turned herself in Tuesday evening, authorities said.
Prosecutors allege in court records that the Steens knowingly allowed Sjol's body to remain in a garbage dump on their property.
Jensen is accused in court records of failing to provide detectives with information relating to Sjol's death.
In court on Tuesday, Jensen said she has cooperated with the investigation and has talked to a detective daily.
None of the defendants who appeared Tuesday have had attorneys assigned to these cases.
Attorney Mark Douglas, who represents Issac Steen on ongoing cases related to narcotics, said Steen has been cooperative and has strong family ties in the area.
Williams County prosecutors also charged Stensaker in May with being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Weyrauch has ongoing narcotics and bail jumping charges in Williams County.
Gibbons is serving 54 days in jail in Washington for a domestic violence conviction, according to the jail's website.
Jensen's criminal history includes felony theft of property and narcotics-related convictions.
Family members are struggling to cope with the death of Sjol, a father of two and grandfather of five who worked from sunup to sundown, Christy Sjol said.
"Everybody will tell you about his smile," she said.
The family spent a lot of time with Sjol last summer while he underwent chemotherapy for colon cancer, but he beat it and was in good health recently, Christy Sjol said.
"We thought we were going to lose him to cancer, not anything like this," she said.