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Christopher Bjerkness, 31, is accused of breaking into the St. Mary's/Duluth Clinic West building, where he allegedly slashed exercise balls.

Duluth man, accused of slashing exercise balls as part of sexual fetish, turns himself in

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DULUTH - A Duluth man with a history of burglary to satisfy a self-professed sexual fetish for slashing large rubber exercise balls was arraigned in St. Louis County District Court this morning.

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Christopher Neil Bjerkness, 31, turned himself in just before 1 a.m. Saturday after calling police from the Holiday Center, police said. He was taken into custody without incident. In his booking photograph, Bjerkness looks dramatically different from his previous time in police custody, with a nearly shaved head and a long goatee.

Bjerkness is accused of breaking into the St. Mary's/Duluth Clinic West building at 4212 Grand Ave., where he allegedly slashed exercise balls, apparently with a sharp knife.

Bjerkness is charged in St. Louis County District Court with second- and third-degree burglary in connection with the May 30 break-in at the clinic.

Bail was set at $10,000 and the defendant was referred to an Arrowhead Regional Corrections officer to consider whether the defendant could be placed on supervised release.

Charges were brought after SMDC officials turned over to Duluth police video surveillance of the break-in and exit from the building. A police investigator concluded that the burglar was Bjerkness.

The defendant was convicted in 2005 of first-degree criminal damage to property after making an unauthorized entry into the Sports and Health Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth on several occasions between February and September of 2004 and damaging inflatable exercise balls.

He admitted to using a knife to slash about 72 exercise balls during three incidents at the college. The different-sized balls were valued at $30 to $60 each.

In pleading guilty in that case, Bjerkness also admitted slashing balls at the St. Mary's/Duluth Clinic Center for Personal Fitness. He said he entered the center by jimmying a locked door with his knife. The fitness center reported to police that 40 balls had been slashed.

According to the criminal complaint, Bjerkness also was convicted in 2006 of third-degree burglary for entering the Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center and damaging inflatable exercise balls there.

Court documents in the earlier cases indicate that Bjerkness told Duluth police he slashed the rubber balls to satisfy a sexual urge. Experts in the field said that Bjerkness has a fetish or unusual attraction to inflatable exercise devices.

As part of his probation, Bjerkness was ordered to undergo psychological counseling but he left his therapy group in April 2008, according to the criminal complaint. A licensed psychologist said the defendant was not attempting to get better and "continues to be a risk to society."

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