Becker County court reports: Sex crimes, pickup theft, damage to property and more
In one case of felony criminal vehicular operation, a 26-year-old Frazee man heard and felt a clunk while driving and stopped and saw his girlfriend in the ditch. He was unsure how fast he was going, but said it could not have been more than 15-20 miles per hour. He said he did not hit her intentionally, and that he was hesitant to call 911 because he had been drinking and was scared to get a DWI.
Frazee man sentenced after hitting woman with car
Brandon Curtis Degroat, 26, of Frazee has been sentenced in Becker County District Court for felony criminal vehicular operation.
According to court records, shortly before midnight on Jan. 11, 2021 law enforcement was dispatched to County Road 56 near County Road 59 in rural Frazee to help an injured woman, who was Degroat’s girlfriend.
When they arrived, she was lying on the ground in the west side of the ditch near a white 2013 Ford Escape. She had blood on her head and was receiving medical attention from Wolf Lake Rescue. A shoe and pair of glasses were in the ditch near where she was laying.
A woman at the scene told police that she had been with Degroat and his girlfriend at the Toad Lake Store and was getting a ride home from them. She said Degroat drove the Ford Escape from the bar with her, the girlfriend, and a man as passengers.
Degroat and his girlfriend had been arguing when they left. On the way from the bar, the vehicle went into the ditch and Degroat left the vehicle on foot. The three passengers also then left the vehicle. The woman walked back to the bar and got a ride, but did not know where the girlfriend went.
Officers spoke with Degroat, who initially denied driving the Escape but ultimately admitted he was the driver. He told them that after he went into the ditch, he left the vehicle on foot but came back and did not see anyone. He got the vehicle out of the ditch and drove backwards down the road using his mirrors looking for his girlfriend.
He heard and felt a clunk and stopped and saw his girlfriend in the ditch. He was unsure how fast he was going, but said it could not have been more than 15-20 miles per hour. He said he did not hit her intentionally, and that he was hesitant to call 911 because he had been drinking and was scared to get a DWI.
He admitted to having seven beers and two to three shots between two different bars prior to driving. His preliminary breath test result was .15% blood alcohol content. Degroat was arrested and transported to the Becker County Jail.
The woman was taken to the ER and ultimately transferred to Sanford Hospital in Fargo due to the severity of her injuries, which included broken ribs, a fractured pelvis, lacerated spleen, collapsed lung, and loss of kidney function. As of Jan. 12, 2021, she was still in critical condition and intubated.
On April 13, District Judge Gretchen Thilmony stayed imposition of sentence and placed Degroat on supervised probation for five years.
He was ordered to serve 120 days in jail, with credit for five days served. He was fined $1,000 plus $1,075 in court fees and ordered to pay $2,524 in restitution.
He must get a chemical dependency evaluation, and follow the recommendations, including aftercare.
Two other felony counts of criminal vehicular operation were dropped in a plea agreement.
Ogema man faces sex charges
Leroy Joseph Sullivan, 42, of rural Ogema, has been charged in Becker County District Court with two felony counts of criminal sexual conduct.
According to court records, he had inapproporate sexual conduct with a girl under the age of 16 on a number of occasions. White Earth Police and Indian Child Welfare social workers handled the investigation, which started when the teenage girl told a coworker about the sexual misconduct.
Sullvan declined to discuss the allegations with an investigator, saying he had already hired an attorney for the investigation.
On May 3, District Court Judge Steven J. Cahill issued a summons for Sullivan to appear in court to face the charges, and two days later Becker County District Judge Jay Carlson set a remote hearing for June 23.
Ponsford man charged with sex crimes
Antoine Lee Oppegard, 22, of Ponsford, has been charged in Becker County District Court with felony first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of felony second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
According to court records, on Dec. 7, 2021, a preteen girl attended a forensic interview at the Red River Children's Advocacy Center. During the interview, she disclosed that she was sexually abused by Oppegard, starting when she was about 4 and ending in about second grade, prior to her living in a "shelter." The girl said that "those years of my life were hell."
On April 7, a summons was issued, and Oppegard was ordered to attend a remote court hearing May 26 before District Judge Jay Carlson.
Lake Park man charged with pickup theft
Austin David Saarinen, 27, of Lake Park, has been charged in Becker County District Court with felony theft of a motor vehicle.
According to court records, on Dec. 5, 2020, a Detroit Lakes police officer responded to Holiday gas station in Detroit Lakes on the report of a stolen vehicle.
The owner reported someone had driven off with his Chevy truck with a lawnmower in the bed. The truck was recovered in a nearby lake, and DNA testing was done on the steering wheel.
On Jan. 28, 2022, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reported the DNA was a match for Saarinen.
On March 30, two investigators met with Saarinen, who confessed to taking the truck. He said he drove off from Holiday and took "back roads" and then put the truck in the lake because he was scared.
On April 8, he was released without bail, under standard conditions of release. A remote hearing was set for May 16.