In March, Chippewa County deputies were called to the Watson home of Mayor Kyle Jones. The Jones family awoke early that morning to find that their west-central Minnesota home had been burglarized overnight.
Desk drawers and electrical cords from their home office were dumped in the hallway. A computer holding city business had been moved. And, in a not very sophisticated moment of criminal cunning, the bad guy had left behind his keys and a black shirt.
Mayor Jones immediately suspected his predecessor, former Mayor Joseph Rongstad, who happens to live across the street. According to Jones, Rongstad believed elements in City Hall were conspiring against him.
Deputies found Rongstad sleeping in his truck. He denied breaking into the Jones abode, yet he also indentified the keys found in the Jones home. When deputies used one to start his truck, the ex-mayor was arrested.
This month, Rongstad pleaded guilty to third-degree burlgary in exchange for having more serious charges dropped. He'll be sentenced in December.
But the case is less about small town political intrigue than it is about Rongstad's mental stability.
In February, he was charged with blasting a rifle through the sunroof of his truck. He explained to responding officers that he was "trying to get away from the corpses that were after him."
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