Superintendent Baesler, former fiancé speak out about domestic incident
BISMARCK – Kirsten Baesler says she just wanted to go home.
Instead, North Dakota’s superintendent of public instruction was handcuffed, hauled off to jail and run through a legal process that thrust her messy personal life into the public spotlight.
It ended Friday when a Bismarck city prosecutor dismissed a simple assault charge that accused 45-year-old Baesler of striking her now-former fiancé in the face with an object he claims was a glass-jar candle.
Baesler, who hadn’t spoken publicly about the incident aside from a prepared statement, broke her silence during an interview with Forum News Service late Friday, pointing to newly released police reports as she maintained her innocence.
City Prosecutor Paul Fraase said Friday that while two men who witnessed the incident saw Baesler throw things, neither saw anything strike her fiancé, Todd Tschosik, at his home in the early hours of Feb. 15, and there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the assault charge.
“I’ve said from the very beginning that I’m innocent and that I was afraid, that I wanted to go home,” Baesler said Friday. “I simply just wanted to go home.”
Tschosik said in a phone interview Saturday that Fraase “totally dropped the ball on this,” and that he had wanted Baesler to leave his house that night but she wouldn’t go alone.
“I was concerned for my safety. She was the one who was throwing everything,” he said.
Police reports from the now-closed case reveal conflicting accounts of what happened leading up to and during the alcohol-fueled incident on the night of Valentine’s Day.
After going out for dinner, Baesler and Tschosik stopped at The Pier Bar and Grill, not far from Tschosik’s home on Southport Loop along the Missouri River in Bismarck. They had drinks with his friend Jason Stark and an acquaintance, Terry Bunk.
Tschosik, a teacher at Simle Middle School in Bismarck, told police that Baesler got extremely intoxicated, and when they returned to his home, she became upset with him and began trashing his place and throwing items at him.
The manager of The Pier, Russ Jenkins, told police that Baesler drank two martinis and that Tschosik had two martinis, four Jameson whiskeys “and a shot,” based on the tab he ran for them, the police report states. Baesler said she’d also had a glass of wine with dinner – Tschosik claims she had several – but she doesn’t believe alcohol impacted her behavior that night.
Still, she’d apparently had enough that Jenkins told police he prevented her from driving. Bunk also told police that both he and Baesler probably had enough not to drive, the report states.
Accounts also differ on what sparked the argument that escalated into the incident.
In his written statement to police, Tschosik claimed that Baesler became “very upset” with him because she felt he didn’t back her up when someone at The Pier asked her when she was going to move in with him and marry him. They’d been together five years, and Tschosik said he responded, “Kirsten, that is a good question.”
But Baesler told police that Tschosik gets jealous and he had become suspicious because someone had written “shot” on a napkin she’d received.
“Kirsten said that she had been concerned for quite some time as she noticed red flags,” the police report states. Baesler told the detective about Tschosik’s arrest for first-degree misdemeanor battery charge last summer in Orange County, Fla. Tschosik denied assaulting Baesler in a hotel room in that incident, and she refused to complete a statement and said she didn’t want to involve police, according to the police report. The charge was dropped.
After the four arrived at Tschosik’s home shortly before 1 a.m., Stark said Baesler fell asleep for a little while, and when she awoke she was upset and started yelling. He said she threw a sandwich on the floor and took his beer and threw it on the floor, angering Tschosik.
Baesler acknowledged to police that she argued with Stark when she woke up. She told police Stark doesn’t like her and he was saying she had no intention of marrying Tschosik, and that Tschosik and Stark were yelling at her and she became angry.
Baesler said Friday that she didn’t feel safe because Tschosik was blocking her from leaving, and that “this isn’t the first time that that had happened.”
“And yes, I reacted and I acted out to try to leave,” she said. “I threw Valentine’s bags and Valentine’s cards, and not at anyone and not in the direction of anyone – basically off of the table, onto the floor type of situation, and really in an attempt to just demonstrate or just to give some space and let me leave.”
Tschosik said the Valentine’s cards were the only thing that wasn’t thrown off the table, and that Baesler twisted the events.
“I was the victim. She was the one who went absolutely nuts,” he said.
In his 911 call to police, Tschosik said Baesler – he identified her by her work title, “Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction” – threw a bottle at him and crushed his nose. He later told police that Baesler threw several Yankee glass-jar candles.
An officer noted Tschosik had a small cut on his forehead and dried blood that ran down the side of his nose to his mouth. There was also blood throughout the kitchen, on the floor and cabinets, all documented in photos in the police report.
Police observed at least three candles on the floor of the kitchen. Tschosik said he didn’t know which one hit him in the face but that Baesler threw all of them at him, which she denies doing.
Fraase referred to the witness accounts in citing a lack of evidence to pursue the case:
- Stark said he saw Baesler throw a candle but never saw it hit Tschosik.
- Bunk said Baesler and Tschosik were arguing about her wanting to leave and Baesler started throwing presents. He said he saw bags flying but didn’t see candles, and he didn’t see Tschosik get hit with anything.
- Stark said Bunk was going to give Baesler a ride home, and he and Tschosik “started getting into it.”
“(Stark) said that Todd was pissed and started towards the area where Kirsten was and he bear hugged him to prevent him from getting into it with her,” the report states.
When asked by police if Tschosik’s facial injury occurred when he bear-hugged him to the ground, Stark said he didn’t know “but it was possible,” the report states.
In his written statement received by police nine days after the incident, Tschosik said he told Stark that he wouldn’t have gone after Baesler and only wanted to grab the bags of Valentine’s gifts so she couldn’t throw them.
Baesler said Friday that she doesn’t know how Tschosik got injured.
“I did not do the things that he says I did, and I most certainly did not say that things that he says I said in the police report,” she said.
‘I have nothing to lose’
Police tried unsuccessfully to locate Baesler at her home in Mandan right after Tschosik reported the incident.
Bunk told police he and Baesler had stopped at his house to let a dog out, and that Baesler fell asleep there. When she woke up, he gave her a ride to her Mandan home, where police later arrested her.
In text messages sent to Baesler shortly after the incident – messages Baesler said she didn’t get right away because she’d left her cell phone in Bunk’s vehicle – Tschosik informed her he was calling the cops.
“I have nothing to lose.. You intentionally wanted this to end tonight.. Well.. You got what you wanted for a long time,” he wrote in a message shortly after 2 a.m.
Tschosik texted Baesler a photo of his bloodied face at 10:36 a.m. that morning with the words “After you throwing 5 candles at me … One connected and cracked my head.”
At 12:29 p.m. that day, police received a call from Tschosik, who said he wanted to drop the case.
“I explained to Todd that it doesn’t work that way especially involving domestic assault related incidents,” the detective wrote.
Early the next morning, in the last text message included in the police report, Tschosik wrote to Baesler: “I am not sure what to say to you… But I want to say that I am so sorry… And that I love you.”
‘A personal issue’
Baesler, a Republican whose first four-year term as state superintendent expires next year, said she’s pleased that the case was dismissed.
She noted that the witnesses did not corroborate Tschosik’s account of the incident.
She said the issue is a personal one and she never let it impact her professional responsibilities, and that she’s been seeing a counselor since shortly after the incident.
“I need to understand why I stayed in an unhealthy and dangerous relationship … and make sure that that’s corrected and that I don’t do that,” she said.
Chad Oban, executive director of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, declined to comment on the legal issue and said “time will tell” what the political ramifications will be for Baesler, if any.
“This is going to be one of those things where voters will have to decide whether this influences whether they support her or not. The election is a long time away,” he said.
Baesler said she’s eager to put the ordeal behind her and move forward.
“I believe this situation, as unfortunate and as public as it was, has made me stronger and more determined to do my work,” she said.