The former mayor of Watson, Minn., has pleaded guilty to breaking into the current mayor’s home while his family slept, rummaging through City Council documents and stealing an engraved pocket knife.
Joseph Mark Rongstad, 34, will be sentenced Dec. 13 on a felony charge of third-degree burglary, according to Chippewa County court records. Prosecutors will dismiss additional charges of felony first-degree burglary and misdemeanor trespassing stemming from the March break-in as part of a plea agreement.
The deal also drops charges in an unrelated February case in which Rongstad was accused of firing a rifle through the sunroof of his truck while he was “trying to get away from the corpses that were after him,” according to court documents.
Both cases against Rongstad were suspended in June when a court-ordered examination found him incompetent to proceed, ruling that he did not have the “sufficient ability to rationally consult with counsel.”
A judge ordered Rongstad committed on the basis of mental illness and chemical dependency. The cases were reopened in September, and Rongstad pleaded guilty earlier this month.
Rongstad was elected mayor of Watson, a tiny town of about 200 people between Montevideo and Lac qui Parle State Park, in 2012. Watson is the self-proclaimed “Goose Capitol of the USA” because of the large number of Canada geese that migrate through and inhabit nearby Lac qui Parle every fall.
Current Watson Mayor Kyle Jones lives across the street from Rongstad and told authorities that his predecessor believes the city has “a conspiracy going against him.”
According to the criminal complaint:
Officers were called around 7:30 a.m. on March 13 after Jones and his family awoke to find several items out of place and worried that an intruder might still be in the house. A State Patrol trooper responded first, and no suspect was found.
The Jones’ home office appeared to be ransacked, with items strewn about the hall. Jones located a black leather computer case from his office on the porch. He told deputies that he kept his laptop and other City Council documents in the bag.
During their sweep, officers located a key lanyard and a black shirt draped on the second-floor stairwell. Neither item belonged to the family.
Jones suggested that Rongstad, his neighbor, might be involved. Police found Rongstad asleep in a pickup truck behind his own garage. Confronted about his whereabouts, Rongstad denied the break-in, saying he didn’t remember where he was earlier that morning. He admitted that the keys found in Jones’ home belonged to his truck.
After authorities confirmed that the keys started the vehicle, Rongstad was arrested and booked into jail. Upon processing, jailers found a set of keys and a Swiss Army knife with the name “Kyle Jones” engraved on it — items Jones had reported missing.