Renville County Attorney Kelsie Kingstrom has taken a look back at the 2022 criminal year with a emphasis on sexual assault cases. She also took time to assess what can be done to curb the number of new cases in 2023.

In 2022, the Renville County Attorney’s office closed 11 criminal sexual assault cases. Most notably, Jayce Hernandez (First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct), Anthony Negan (Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct), Brandon Schwer (Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct) and lastly, the trio of offenders: Lukus Scheer, Timothy Kicher, and Brady Larsen (either Fifth or Third Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct). The office also closed out a handful of juvenile criminal assault cases as well.

The last of the trio of offenders, Brady Larsen, 20, of Milroy, was sentenced January 10, for Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Fifth Degree for an incident that took place in October, 2021. Mr. Larsen was one of four men charged by the Renville County Attorney’s Office for a criminal sexual conduct offense. The fourth, Dalton Monroe, 20, of Fairmont, was found not guilty by a Renville County jury. The remaining three pled guilty.

The trio of convicted cases involved minor children between the ages of 11 and 14, similar facts and circumstances, and occurred around the City of Franklin. The Renville County Attorney’s Office wants to point out that social media, specifically SnapChat, played a large role in the commission these offenses. All three convicted offenders now have to register as a predatory offender and pay restitution to the victims for mental health services.

The office also opened seven new criminal sexual assault cases in 2022 that have yet to be closed, a majority of which involved a minor child victim; specifically, Jordan Freitag, 23 of Renville, and Kelsey Jones, 21 of Willmar, both for involvement in First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. Attorney Kingstrom is optimistic the number of new open cases is less than those closed throughout the year.

County Attorney Kingstrom explained the goal of continued community publicity surrounding Renville County sexual assaults is to prevent future assaults. “The hope is that the more attention and visibility that is brought to these types of cases, the less offenders are willing to commit the crimes, or at least the hope is that they will think twice before doing so.”

Over the past year of prosecuting these cases, Attorney Kingstrom has noticed two specific trends: social media involvement and the community denouncing of victims. Kingstrom stated, “Social media is a huge factor in these cases, especially where they involve minor children. Victims are either meeting or communicating with their attackers through these phone applications, and sometimes, the victim and attacker are meeting for the first time over these platforms.”

Additionally, Attorney Kingstrom has observed that more often than not, the immediate surrounding community of a sexual assault victim colors them in a negative light. “Victims of sexual assault are victims for a variety of reasons: vulnerability, the very normal desire to be liked or wanted, or simply their age. The victim is not the criminal, the attacker is. When a child is assaulted, they are almost always acting exactly how you would expect a child of that age to act. It’s the adult offender who is in the wrong and took advantage of them. There is not a burden on a victim to not be sexually assaulted. The burden is on the attacker to keep their hands to themselves and not assault people, sexually or otherwise. Placing blame back on a victim for how they acted or dressed, or saying things like “they have a reputation,” does not help to curb the problem, it only feeds it. It also creates a massive barrier to reporting, leaving victims struggling indefinitely.”

Attorney Kingstrom gives all the credit for successful sexual assault convictions in 2022 to the work of Renville County law enforcement. She encourages victims of any crime to speak with the law enforcement in their area, and is hopeful the number of sexual assault cases in Renville County continues to decline.