A long goodbyeMott father giving up fight to reopen investigation into son’s death
By: John Odermann, The Dickinson Press
Part one of two
A Mott father says the unexpected death of his son and the years of unanswered questions that followed have stolen his identity.
Roger Jahner, at least one private investigator and two psychic detectives believe there was more to the double fatal accident on Highways 21 and 49 near New Leipzig that took the life of his 19-year-old son Louis on Oct. 23, 2005.
Jahner made his final trip to Bismarck on Jan. 9 in an attempt to get the case reopened. But after years of searching for answers, he said it’s time to move on with his life
“My identity was being there for my wife and children and my business,” he said. “I had to leave them behind.”
Jahner had made the 100-plus mile trek from his farm to the state capital several times in the past three years attempting to get the North Dakota Highway Patrol to reopen the investigation. Louis’ friend Kjirsten Carlson, 16, was also killed in the accident.
Highway Patrol Capt. Eric Pederson said the department is comfortable with the investigation and its conclusions.
“It’s a tragic accident, but we feel the initial investigation was accurate and that’s where it stands right now,” Pederson said. “I’m not going to get into specifics because it deals with several other agencies also that assisted.”
The incident occurred as Louis drove Carlson’s car home from a rural party. He allegedly lost control, went into the ditch and the car rolled, ejecting both passengers.
Both teenagers died at the scene.
Toxicology reports show Louis was at twice the legal blood alcohol limit, prompting the Highway Patrol to close the case and write it off as another case of drunken driving.
But that conclusion never sat well with Jahner, who believed it wasn’t just drunken driving.
He believes someone forced his son off the road.
Jahner was determined to find out the truth.
“That reality was, do I as a father let my son’s death go in vain, or do I leave my family and kids behind and go after what I believe is out there,” Jahner said. “I knew if I didn’t proceed forward with this, this thing would haunt me for the rest of my life and I wouldn’t be able to be a father to my kids down the road.”
Jahner, who has two other children, set off on a journey of discovery that has left him with more questions than answers.
Filling in the blanks
Louis and Carlson attended a party at a farm house near New Leipzig the night of the accident.
At least one witness who was at the party said there was a heated altercation between Louis and three young men from South Dakota. Jahner believes these three were involved in the chase that ended his son’s life.
“What this whole thing came down to is nobody was ever really questioned at all about the argument taking place outside,” Jahner said.
Even though the men from South Dakota were never questioned by law enforcement officials, they gave voluntary statements. They said they went to the party but returned home between midnight and 12:30 the next morning.
However, at least one individual said they saw the pickup the South Dakota men were driving at the party at about 1:15 a.m.
“Is it hearsay or is it evidence?” Jahner said.
Contradicting statements and other accounts from the party were not fully looked into, he said.
“What we had here was all the pieces of the puzzle,” Jahner said. “All they had to do was be connected until they couldn’t be connected anymore.”
The owner of the pickup from South Dakota was administered a polygraph test and the Highway Patrol was confident in its results, which indicate he went home.
The Highway Patrol allegedly informed Jahner if the case depended on when the South Dakota men left the party, the three voluntary statements would be held in higher regard because one of them was polygraphed. However, it did not come down to that.
Jahner said you can’t rule out the witness’ conflicting statement because of the polygraph, because no questions relating to the time they left the party were asked.
Three others who say they saw what they believe was Carlson’s vehicle pass them on Highway 49 were polygraphed. From the results, the Highway Patrol determined Louis was speeding.
Talk of a chase
Louis and Carlson had arrived separately to the party, but Carlson needed a ride home and Louis volunteered to drive Carlson’s vehicle home and stay at her parents’ house that night.
On the way to Carlson’s parents house heading north on Highway 49, the car should have taken a left onto Highway 21 to head toward Mott, but instead went straight onto a gravel road.
The Carlson vehicle entered the west ditch, came out of the ditch, traveled north on the road and then entered the east ditch, where it rolled.
Immediately following the accident rumors began to swirl about events at the party the night Louis and Carlson died and talk of a “chase” spread throughout the southwestern North Dakota town and surrounding area, Jahner said.
Jahner doesn’t doubt his son was drunk. However he believes there is evidence at the scene, which was overlooked, that pointed to the possibility of a chase, such as what Jahner believes is an extra set of tire tracks in the ditch.
The Highway Patrol determined the Carlson vehicle made the tracks as it went into and then exited the ditch.
Interviews and other parts of the investigation were conducted by the Grant County Sheriff’s Department and the North Dakota Bureau of Investigation. Special investigator Tom Dahl with the BCI agrees with Pederson.
“Unless there is some new, independent evidence that comes forward, which hasn’t since this crash, we are very confident the information we gathered is accurate,” Pederson said. “You’re never going to be able to satisfy everybody, but we feel we’ve put a great amount of resources and we have done everything we can to allow Roger to not only understand what happened, but maybe find some measure of peace with it.”
In the fall of 2006, Jahner came across a show on CourtTV called, “Psychic Detectives,” where the use of psychics helped solve a New Jersey murder case.
The show piqued Jahner’s interest and he attempted to contact the psychic, Nancy Weber, but was unsuccessful.
Jahner contacted retired New Jersey Police Chief Dave Heater, who put him in contact with Weber.
Weber visited the Jahner house, the scene of the accident, the house where the party took place and examined the car.
During her readings, Weber spoke of an argument at the party and a chase at the scene of the accident where the Carlson vehicle was “tapped.”
Heater, his interest piqued by his initial conversations with Jahner, decided to get involved by looking into the case on his own.
Tomorrow in part two, Heater uncovers what he believes are errors in the way the investigation was conducted and writes a report describing how the accident couldn’t have taken place as originally reconstructed.