Ex-wrestler found guilty in sex case, tried to run after verdicts were read
WILLMAR, Minn. -- A former professional wrestler has been found guilty of 12 charges of criminal sexual conduct, and a district judge will weigh several factors in determining the severity of the sentence.
The guilty verdicts were returned Wednesday afternoon against Eugene Otto Zumhofe, 62, of Cyrus, in Kandiyohi County District Court. The jury deliberated for about four hours before finding Zumhofe guilty of six first-degree and six third-degree counts of criminal sexual conduct for molesting a close female relative over a period of years.
Zumhofe, a former pro wrestler known as “Buck Rock ’N’ Roll Zumhofe’’ in the 1980s and early 1990s, was taken into custody after the verdicts were read. He tried to run from the courthouse before being subdued by court security officers.
He will be held pending sentencing on the sexual conduct convictions, and the Kandiyohi County Jail custody list now also notes a pending felony charge of escape from custody.
Zumhofe had been free since July on a $50,000 bond posted on his $500,000 unconditional bail.
Court resumed Thursday morning when District Judge David Mennis heard arguments regarding aggravating factors, which could lead to a longer prison sentence for Zumhofe. The factors include the particular cruelty of the sexual abuse, Zumhofe’s history of sexual crimes and his pattern as a sex offender.
Zumhofe appeared at the hearing Thursday in jail clothing, handcuffs and shackles.
Mennis will rule before the May 7 sentencing date on the prosecution’s motion seeking a sentence longer than the presumptive sentence under state guidelines.
“We envision that the judge will impose a significant period of time (for the prison sentence),” Kandiyohi County Attorney Shane Baker said.
Baker noted that Zumhofe’s prison term will be influenced by the judge’s decision on the aggravating factors, which can double the prison time, plus the fact that judges can sentence these types of crimes consecutively. Under consecutive sentencing, a defendant must serve one sentence at a time, finishing the sentence on one count before starting to serve time on the next count.
The criminal complaint states that the maximum penalty for first-degree criminal sexual conduct is 30 years in prison and/or a $40,000 fine.
The jury trial began Feb. 26.
During Thursday’s hearing, Zumhofe waived his right to have the jury hear the aggravating factors, choosing to have Mennis decide that portion of the case. Evidence was admitted during the hearing regarding Zumhofe’s two prior convictions for criminal sexual conduct, which date back to 1986 and 1989.
Zumhofe did not testify at Thursday’s hearing, and answered affirmatively under questioning by his attorney, Carter Greiner, that he stood by his earlier testimony that he didn’t have sexual contact with the young woman and that he denies all the allegations.
Baker commended the young woman for her courage and strength in reporting the abuse and then testifying in court.
“We are very happy with the strength she showed,” Baker said. “It is never easy to open up and testify.”
The woman, who reported the 12 years of sexual abuse after seeking therapy and medical care in 2012, took the witness stand a second time Thursday morning.
She had previously testified about how Zumhofe had abused her, and answered several questions from Nathan Midolo, one of the assistant county attorneys prosecuting the case. She said that she was raised to believe in God and that she wanted to remain a virgin and wait for marriage to have sex. She also testified about the injuries caused by Zumhofe’s frequent sexual contact with her. The abuse began in 1999 when she was 15 years old.