Image courtesy Renville County

Renville County Attorney Kelsie Kingstrom is using a recent case her department is involved with as an example of what “stalking” means according to Minnesota law.

Kingstrom states a criminal complaint against Nathaniel Peter Ethen, of Babbit, alleges Ethen placed a tracker on the car of the victim and her significant other at their home in the middle of the night, enabling Ethen to have “surprise” run ins with the victim all over the state.

Additionally, Ethen continually contacted the victim in violation of an order for protection. The victim was constantly in fear of what was going to happen, where Ethen was going to show up next, and made changes to her daily life.

Based on these allegations, Renville County Court has prohibited Ethen from being in Renville County except for hearings on his cases during the pre-trial stage. Kingstrom states that Ethan already has three separate felony stalking cases.

Kinstrom states that accoring to Minnesota statute, stalking means “two or more acts within a five-year period that violate or attempt to violate the provisions of any of the following…”: murder, manslaughter, threats of violence, fifth degree assault, domestic assault, violations of orders for protection, certain trespass offenses, obscene or harassing telephone calls, harassment through letters or packages, damage to property, criminal sexual conduct, or burglary. Additionally, the statute is clear that this list of offenses is not exclusive, but can be expanded.
“But there is a second piece of this: the victim has to feel terrorized or fear bodily harm, and the person’s actions have to actually cause this reaction to the victim. There are situations where a person could receive some harassing phone calls and mail, but doesn’t feel terrorized or fear bodily harm. There are also some situations where victim has experienced multiple assaults, and even though the victim sustained bodily harm, they do not fear bodily harm or feel terrorized.”

Kingstrom admits, “It’s definitely a tricky statute.”

According to SPARC (Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center), 1 in 3 stalkers have stalked before, and approximately 13.5 million people are stalked in a one-year period. Additionally, of all stalkers, 42% know their victims and 40% are current or former intimate partners.

Kingstrom’s advice for potential stalking victims “is first and foremost to trust your gut. If something seems wrong, it probably is. Second, take a look at your social media: are you friending people you don’t know? How much of your profile is public? Are you participating in the trend going around where you post all of your favorite things or personal information about yourself? I suggest locking that down, and stop posting when you’re going to be out of town or any upcoming vacations. Social media may be something that we enjoy using, but it is also a stalker’s best friend. As my victim advocate Brianna Holmquist says, “we can’t be naïve enough to think that we live in a world where we don’t need to take precautions to protect ourselves.”

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing stalking, please contact law enforcement.