John Hult

John Hult

John is the senior reporter for South Dakota Searchlight. He has more than 15 years experience covering criminal justice, the environment and public affairs in South Dakota, including more than a decade at the Sioux falls Argus Leader.

The South Dakota Capitol building in Pierre. (Getty Images)

Most out-of-state worker recruitment cash goes unspent

By: - May 5, 2023

A few years ago, an economic development office in Yankton asked for and received access to $100,000 from the state to train local employees and recruit out-of-state workers. The funding helped pull in a manufacturing quality manager, two professors, a vice president of enrollment, an accountant and a fire chief from states including Illinois, Nebraska, […]

The Lincoln County Courthouse in Canton, as seen on Oct. 28, 2022. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Plans for $55 million justice center in Lincoln County revealed

By: - May 2, 2023

Lincoln County commissioners in Canton got their first look Tuesday at plans for a $55 million courthouse and justice center meant to meet the county’s needs for decades. Commissioners approved the spending in December in the interest of dealing with the swelling criminal justice needs of the state’s fastest-growing county, which includes the expanding southern […]

South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Janine Kern gestures as she participates in oral arguments with other justices on March 23, 2023, in Brookings. (David Bordewyk/South Dakota Newspaper Association)

Court documents outline cause of shuttered child porn investigation of T. Denny Sanford

By: - April 27, 2023

Nearly four years ago, detectives in South Dakota launched an investigation to determine if the state’s richest man had shared or received child pornography through email. One year ago, then-Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg issued a statement declaring that T. Denny Sanford had committed “no prosecutable offenses within the district of South Dakota.” On Thursday, after […]

Avian influenza led to the deaths of about 8 million U.S. turkeys in 2022. (Scott Bauer/Agriculture Research Service, USDA)

Brookings company looks to build bird flu vaccine

By: - April 27, 2023

A Brookings company hopes a flu vaccine for turkeys might eventually help protect multiple species from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza strains like H5N1, which has wreaked havoc on the poultry industry for the past two years. The cost of vaccination and concerns about trade implications with foreign customers have thus far held off the use […]

Gov. Kristi Noem talks about apprenticeship programs on April 25, 2023, at Howe Inc. in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Noem touts $7.9 million investment in apprenticeships as part of workforce shortage solution

By: - April 25, 2023

SIOUX FALLS — Employers willing to build or expand apprenticeship programs in South Dakota will soon have a shot at a larger pool of state funding. During a stop Tuesday at Howe Inc., Gov. Kristi Noem announced the addition of $7.9 million in apprenticeship grants to be distributed over three years through the Start Today […]

Terra Eagle Feather, right, sits with a South Dakota Board of Pardons and Parole staffer prior to a hearing on her pardon request, at the Jamison Annex of the South Dakota State Penitentiary on March 15, 2023. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

New records release puts pardons from Gov. Noem at 228

By: - April 22, 2023

The South Dakota Secretary of State’s Office has released 28 additional pardons signed by Gov. Kristi Noem since 2019. Earlier this year, the office released 200 of Noem’s pardons in response to a records request from South Dakota Searchlight.  It’s unknown why the additional pardons were not in the first batch. Deputy Secretary of State […]

(Getty Images)

$200 million in housing infrastructure funding likely to lie dormant for a second year

By: - April 20, 2023

A $200 million pool of housing infrastructure funding will likely go unspent for another construction season, despite efforts by lawmakers to push the money out in 2023. The interim director of the South Dakota Housing Development Authority broke that news to the Legislature’s Executive Board Thursday during its first meeting since the end of the […]

Joe Kirby, head of South Dakota Open Primaries, signs a petition that aims to allow all voters to cast a vote in the state's primary elections. Kirby is seated next to De Knudson of Sioux Falls, with Tom Dempster of Sioux Falls standing to her left. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Open primary push to see opposition from state Republican Party

By: - April 19, 2023

SIOUX FALLS — A bipartisan group of activists kicked off a petition drive Wednesday that aims to put open primaries on the South Dakota general election ballot in 2024. The proposal would enshrine the right to vote for every primary candidate of every political persuasion for all voters in the South Dakota Constitution, regardless of […]

The South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, as seen on Jan. 9, 2023. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Teen murderer, now 41, denied parole in fourth appearance before board

By: - April 14, 2023

SIOUX FALLS – A 41-year-old inmate who put two bullets in the head of a man who was pleading for his life in 1996 will spend at least eight more months in prison. Paul Jensen was 14 years old at the time. He was given a mandatory sentence of life without parole for first-degree murder […]

The South Dakota State Capitol, as seen on Nov. 2, 2022.

Paid family leave expansion for state employees clears first administrative hurdle

By: - April 13, 2023

A Thursday vote from South Dakota’s Civil Service Commission sent the question of expanded paid family leave for state employees to lawmakers. The commission voted unanimously to move from eight weeks of paid leave at 60% pay for new parents to 12 weeks of leave at 100% pay. The leave can be used for “bonding […]

Missing persons posters for Robert "Berta" Enoch, who died shortly after being arrested on April 3, 2023. (Submitted photos)

Family left with questions after man dies in custody of rural sheriff’s office

By: - April 12, 2023

State investigators are reviewing the death of a man shortly after his arrest on April 3 by Charles Mix County sheriff’s deputies. Friends of 35-year-old Robert Dennis “Berta” Enoch have a host of questions about how someone who’d expressed a desire to get well and had secured a place at a treatment center just days […]

The G. Norton Jameson Annex at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Power of mercy: Noem decisions highlight outsized importance of pardons in South Dakota

By: - April 7, 2023

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story about pardons is part of a special report on executive clemency. An additional story explores commutations, and a commentary outlines difficulties encountered in obtaining pardon records. — A father from Fort Pierre with five drunken driving convictions and more than a decade of sobriety wants to take his son hunting. A […]