Gear Up scandal, murders cast long shadow
As lawmakers debate whether legislative watch dog committee should have unbridled power to subpoena, Gear Up investigation recalled
PIERRE – On Sept. 17, 2015, firefighters were called out to a burning home near Platte, South Dakota. They found six charred, unidentifiable bodies.
Days later, the Attorney General’s Office stunned the community when it announced that the six had been victims of a murder-suicide. Scott Westerhuis, the family father, had shot his wife and four children to death with a shotgun before setting fire to the home and then killing himself.
It was the start of one of the most notorious scandals in state history. Known as the Gear Up scandal for the program it was named after, Westerhuis, the business manager at a public education cooperative, was at the center of a complex scheme that diverted millions of dollars to himself and a network of nonprofits. The money for the Gear Up program was supposed to have gone to enhance education for Native Americans.
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