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Former Watson mayor pleads guilty to burglary

MONTEVIDEO — Described at the time as believing the city had "a conspiracy going against him," the former mayor of Watson pleaded guilty earlier this month to breaking into the current mayor's home in March.

Joseph Mark Rongstad, 34, will be sentenced Dec. 13 on a felony charge of third-degree burglary. As part of an Oct. 10 plea agreement, additional charges of felony first-degree burglary and misdemeanor trespassing will be dismissed.

Rongstad was also facing charges from February for allegedly firing a rifle through the sunroof of his truck, saying, according to court documents, that he was "trying to get away from the corpses that were after him."

Those charges will also be dismissed at the sentencing hearing in the burglary case, as part of the plea agreement.

Rongstad lives across the street from current Watson Mayor Kyle Jones, according to court records.

West Central Tribune archives show Rongstad was elected mayor of Watson in 2012, and Jones was elected mayor in 2014.

Chippewa County sheriff's deputies were called to Jones' home around 7:30 a.m. March 13 after Jones reported an apparent break-in. Believing he was targeted for being the current mayor, Jones named Rongstad as a possible suspect, the criminal complaint states. Jones further told authorities that Rongstad believed he was the subject of a conspiracy.

A Minnesota State Patrol trooper was the first to arrive at the scene and found no intruders in the Jones home, but told a sheriff's deputy that many items appeared to be out of place.

According to the complaint, Jones told a deputy that his family had returned home at 1 a.m. that morning. Around 3:30 a.m., an intruder had pushed his daughter's bedroom door open and said, "oops, sorry."

Jones' wife also reported hearing an intruder in the house around 7:30 that morning, and noticed desk drawers, electrical cords and other items from their home office had been strewn in the hallway.

A computer case containing city documents and Kyle Jones' computer had also been moved from the office. A lanyard with keys and a black shirt were found upstairs, neither of which Jones says belonged to him or his family.

The state trooper and sheriff's deputy found Rongstad sleeping in a pickup truck across the street, behind the garage at his home.

They woke Rongstad up, and he told them he had been fixing his trucks to sell them and move to Brainerd.

He denied entering Jones' house earlier that morning, but added that he did not remember, the complaint states.

Rongstad affirmed that the keys on the recovered lanyard belonged to him, and a deputy was able to start Rongstad's red Ford truck with one key from the lanyard.

The deputy arrested Rongstad on the scene.

During booking at the Yellow Medicine County Jail, authorities found on Rongstad's person a Swiss army knife with "Kyle Jones" written on it and a set of keys later identified as belonging to Jones, the complaint says.

The cases against Rongstad had been briefly suspended in June, when an examination found him incompetent to proceed in the cases.

A Chippewa County district judge ordered Rongstad committed on the basis of mental illness and chemical dependency.

The cases were reopened Sept. 6.

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