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Mitchell man charged with wife’s suffocation death

Prosecutor stays out of neighbor dispute

Davison County State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins says there’s not enough evidence to prosecute a rural Mitchell man for violating zoning laws.

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Paul Jerke has been accused by neighbor Wanda Kobes of illegally running a towing and mechanic business from his father’s garage without a conditional-use permit, which is needed to operate a business in the ag-residential zoning district. Kobes alleges Jerke continues to operate the business even after a cease-and-desist order was issued by the sheriff’s office. Jerke denies the allegations.

Miskimins said Wednesday his office is approaching the complaint like a criminal case, meaning everything is evidence-based.

“Based on the code we’re talking about, in this case a zoning code with Davison County, we’ll make a decision if we need to proceed to allege there’s been a violation,” Miskimins said, “and at this point in time, with regard to this particular matter, there’s insufficient evidence for us to proceed currently.”

Tuesday during a weekly meeting of the Davison County commissioners at the courthouse in Mitchell, Kobes asked the commissioners about the status of Jerke. The two live near each other on Highway 37 south of Mitchell, and Kobes shares a driveway with Jerke’s father, John. Kobes has attended other county commission meetings and complained about Jerke.

At the meeting Tuesday, Planning and Zoning Administrator Jeff Bathke told Kobes she needs to bring physical proof, perhaps photos or video, of Jerke operating a business on his or his father’s property.

Although Jerke holds a sales-tax license that lists his father’s residence, Miskimins said that is not proof that he is working from the garage illegally.

“My life experience tells me that if you’re going to operate a business, you have to have a mailing address for it,” Miskimins said. “So having the appropriate licenses to operate a towing business means you have to have a mailing address.”

Miskimins said the county does not currently plan any action against Jerke.

“These matters of this nature tend to be ongoing,” Miskimins said. “Should there be more evidence that we think would justify a prosecution, certainly we’ll proceed.”