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Lindon Roy Knutson

Rural Belgrade church rapist suspect's bail set at $500K

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WILLMAR -- Bail was set this morning 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.

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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 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.

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 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, raped 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.

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