A Thief River Falls man has been charged in Pennington County District Court after he allegedly inappropriately touched a relative over her clothing on two occasions.
Leland Ervin Nelson, 84, has been charged with two felony counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was arrested.
The charges stemmed from a Jan. 5 report to the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, according to the complaint. A woman reported that she and her daughter were discussing a Christmas Eve family gathering the following day.
When the mom said how much fun the family had, the girl allegedly disclosed that her great-grandfather had inappropriately touched her. She then ran away and hid. The girl later told her mom that this had happened more than once. She allegedly said Nelson inappropriately touched her over her clothing and under a table while she was sitting alone with him on Christmas Eve. She said the girl told her that she didn’t walk away because she wasn’t sure what he would do to her. Adults were playing a game, and other kids were elsewhere.
The woman said Nelson is fully aware of what is occurring around him. The woman told the sheriff’s office that she hadn’t reported the incident earlier since she and her family were discussing how to proceed.
In the meantime, she continued to gather as much information as she could from the girl. The girl told her that Nelson had been inappropriately touching her since 2018. The woman said the girl has been resentful toward men for three or four years and won’t allow her own father to hug or tickle her. She said the girl was mad at herself because she didn’t want to get anyone in trouble.
On Friday, Jan. 8, a forensic interview was conducted with the girl at the Family Advocacy Center in Bemidji. The girl provided the same information to the interviewer and said she thought she would get in trouble if she told anyone. During the interview, she allegedly said Nelson inappropriately touched her more than five, but less than 10, times. The girl also said he inappropriately touched her over her clothing on New Year’s Eve, when her great-grandmother was in the kitchen and her brother was playing.
She said she doesn’t feel safe around him. A sheriff’s deputy also spoke with the girl’s grandparents. They learned about the allegation after they had gone to the girl’s home to pick up their grandchildren on Jan. 3. The grandfather said he and his wife initially downplayed it, but the girl became angry and said it happened more than once.
The girl initially didn’t want to leave with them because she feared Nelson would be at their home. Nelson allegedly told a sheriff’s deputy that he only touched the girl on Christmas Eve while tickling her stomach area through an open part of her shirt. He said she had got – ten mad after he grabbed some silly putty from her. He then tickled her stomach and meant nothing by it. Nelson said the girl was turning it into something dirty, and the girl and her mom were blowing things out of proportion.
He told the sheriff’s deputy that the family has had problems with the mother, who was out to get him because of another male relative. Nelson said he had “monkeyed around” with the girl as one would with a great-granddaughter. He allegedly said he “‘has never touched her vagina yet,’” according to the complaint.
Nelson allegedly said the girl has had a dirty little mind since she started walking. Nelson said she has followed “boys to the bathroom and she has done it to him many times where she comes into the bathroom to see what they got.” The interview stopped after one of Nelson’s sons said he felt it was time to obtain a public defender. He asked that law enforcement not arrest Nelson and allow Nelson and his wife to leave for Arizona as they planned.