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Minnesota teen accused of Bible camp rape

FOSSTON, Minn. -- A Twin Cities 18-year-old man is behind bars in Polk County, Minn., on suspicion of sexually assaulting two underage girls while they were camping at a Bible camp in far northwest Minnesota this summer.

Semaj Avyiair Okongwu, 18, of Burnsville, Minn., faces two charges of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree after being accused of assaulting two girls at Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp south of Fosston.

The alleged assaults, including one rape allegation, took place July 25 and July 28, according to court documents.

Okongwu had come to the camp with a Twin Cities church group, said camp manager Don VanKlompenburg.

"We were aware of the situation when it happened," the camp manager said. "But it started out as a ‘he said, she said’ situation. It was thought it might have been consensual."

However, the two-month investigation allegedly found something else

An investigation led to a warrant issued by the Polk County District Court on Sept. 27. Okongwu was arrested in Itasca County on Monday and transported to the Northwest Regional Corrections Center in Crookston.

According to the criminal complaint, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to the camp operated by members churches from across northern Minnesota on July 28 on a report of a possible rape. A youth pastor told a responding deputy he went looking for two missing campers, and when he found them was told someone had done something to one of the campers. The deputy took a statement from the victim, the complaint states.

The victim told a deputy that Okongwu, which the court complaint did not say if he was a counselor or a camper, had asked her to go on a walk in the woods. She told the deputy that once in the woods, Okongwu grabbed her and began to kiss her, and that she tried to push him away. The complaint states she then attempted to follow Okongwu out of the woods, and that when they reached a clearing he forcibly removed her clothes and raped her.

A deputy also interviewed Okongwu, who said that sexual acts took place but said they were consensual.

The age of the victim is not given in the report.

On Aug. 1, the complaint states that a deputy with the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office took a statement from a girl between 13 and 15 years old. The girl told the deputy that on the evening of July 25, while playing capture the flag at Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp Okongwu asked to talk to her. She told deputies she had met Okongwu at the camp the previous year.

Once the two were alone, she told investigators Okongwu uncovered his genitals and pulled her hand onto them. She told him to stop, according to the complaint, and he pulled up his pants. Okongwu then began massaging her, progressively moving further down her back and ultimately pulled down her pants. The complaint states Okongwu sexually molested the victim while she repeatedly told him to stop and tried to push him away. She told authorities he removed his pants and attempted to rape her, but ran away when he heard sirens from an ambulance that arrived for an injured camper.

If convicted on both counts, Okongwu could face a combined 20 years in prison and $60,000 in fines.

Minnesota hurches involved with the camp, according to its website, are Bethel Assembly, Fosston; Duluth Gospel Tabernacle, Duluth; Valley Christian Church, Breckenridge; Cloquet Gospel Tabernacle, Cloquet; Bethel Christian Fellowship, St. Paul; Full Gospel Assembly, Canby and Full Gospel Church, Grand Rapids.

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