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Suspect in Minnesota church sex assault had St. Croix County conviction

Lindon Knutson was arrested at Cosmos, Minn., by Kandiyohi County deputies a short time after he allegedly assaulted a 73-year-old woman.

WILLMAR, Minn. -- Bail was set Monday at $500,000 for the man accused of beating, raping and robbing a 73-year-old woman last week at a northern Kandiyohi County church.

Lindon Roy Knutson, 61, made his first appearance this morning on four felony charges: first-degree criminal sexual conduct, first-degree aggravated robbery, third-degree assault and theft in Kandiyohi County District Court.

Knutson gave a Bemidji, Minn., address in court, but information provided by the prosecutor includes that he was released in 2008 from the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, Wis., where he had been on an indefinite civil commitment as a sexually dangerous predator.

Wisconsin court records indicate Knutson's last known address as Cameron. He is scheduled to make a court appearance in Hayward next Monday to face a worthless check charge in Sawyer County.

The man has a "non-stop" history of sexual assault and crimes dating back to 1974, according to Connie Crowell, the first assistant county attorney who is prosecuting the case. She cited information from Wisconsin officials during the court hearing, noting that "he is one of their most dangerous predatory offenders."

Knutson was convicted in 1975 for rape in St. Croix County, Wis..

Knutson has served prison time in three states, but has been incarcerated or committed in Wisconsin for multiple sex crimes, including raping and attempting to kidnap women, Crowell said. Somehow, she said, Wisconsin officials released him from the Mendota mental facility earlier this year.

Crowell sought a $1 million bail on Knutson.

"He is an extreme danger to public safety," she said, adding that he was driving around the area under the guise of looking at churches. "Your Honor, they don't get much more dangerous than this."

He had received a tour of the Crow River Lutheran Church in rural Belgrade from the 73-year-old woman before he allegedly beat her, including kicking and striking her in the face, sexually assaulted her and stole her purse.

Knutson was located and arrested that same afternoon in Cosmos, Minn., after the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's office published a statewide bulletin to law enforcement based on the victim's description.

(Gretchen Schlosser is a reporter with The West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minn., which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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