On January 28, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem "unexpectedly" passed away at the age of 68. The news of his demise was announced by the Office of Attorney General in North Dakota. He is reportedly survived by his wife, Beth Bakke Stenehjem, and their son, Andrew.
In a statement, the Governor of North Dakota, Doug Burgum said:
"Wayne embodied public service, both as a dedicated legislator and the longest-serving attorney general in our state's 133-year history."
He also credited Stenehjem for the state's safety, which was a result of "his unwavering commitment to law and order." Burgum added:
"It was an honor and a privilege to serve alongside Wayne on the North Dakota Industrial Commission and state Land Board."
As per the official statement, both the private funeral and the public service for the late Attorney General will be organized at Bismarck Funeral Home & Crematory.
Wayne Stenehjem was found unresponsive after a fall at his home on Friday morning
According to Fox-affiliated, Your News Leader, Stenehjem's brother Allan, confirmed that the Attorney General was found unresponsive after a fall at his home on Friday morning at 8.27 am. He was taken to a Bismarck hospital nearby.
As per Allan, Wayne Stenehjem's fall could have been caused by an inflamed ulcer. By afternoon, Stenehjem was reported to be responsive and under treatment. Allan's statement confirmed that the cause of death was not COVID-related.
While no official statements have confirmed the cause of death, the most common fatality from ulcers is when it bursts and causes a hemorrhage. The ruptured ulcer may also cause digestive fluids and acid to leak into the abdominal cavity, causing further life-threatening complications.
Exploring Wayne Stenehjem's legacy
The late 68-year-old Mohall, North Dakota native, graduated with a law degree from the University of North Dakota in 1977. A year before his graduation, Stenehjem was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives. In 1980, he was elected to the state's senate and served there for 20 years.
In 2001, Wayne Stenehjem became North Dakota's 29th Attorney General, the position he served until his death. He won the re-election in 2004, 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018, respectively. Stenehjem was the longest-serving Attorney General in the state's history. Last year, he announced his retirement following his final term's end in 2022.
As the Attorney General, Stenehjem is credited with establishing the state's crime lab and the human trafficking commission. He was also known for his vigorous enforcement of the sunshine laws in North Dakota, which made the government more transparent than before.