South Dakota man acquitted by Kandiyohi County jury of alleged sexual assault of 15-year-old girl in 2008

Jaime Galicia Merino, 38, of Huron, South Dakota, was acquitted of both criminal charges filed against him related to a reported sexual assault of a girl in Willmar in 2008. Merino was 23 at the time and going by a different name. An initial investigation in 2008 identified him as a suspect. He was arrested in 2021 after a DNA test.


WILLMAR — A Kandiyohi County jury last month acquitted a 38-year-old South Dakota man, finding him not guilty of two felony sexual assault charges filed against him in 2021.

Jaime Galicia Merino, also known as Ramiro Ramirez, was charged in June 2021 with the alleged sexual assault of a girl in Willmar in 2008. According to the criminal complaint, the girl was 15 years old at the time and Merino was 23.

Jamie Galicia Merino

He was charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Merino was acquitted on both counts April 5 after the jury entered its not guilty verdicts.

According to the criminal complaint, on April 28, 2008, two teenage girls at a retail business location on First Street in Willmar. accepted a ride back to school from two adult males, including Merino.

The girl who rode in the back seat with Merino said he began kissing her and asked if she wanted to have sex. The girl said no, but Merino then resumed his actions, according to the complaint, and allegedly raped her.


The girl in the front seat confirmed those events and said she told the driver to "have him stop," according to the complaint.

The two girls were dropped off at school, where a police officer and the principal were waiting, the court documents said. The girls reported what happened, and at the hospital an assault exam kit was completed and later sealed into evidence at the Willmar Police Department.

An investigation was opened and contacts between the Willmar Police Department, and the Huron, South Dakota, Police Department were established.

Two days later, on April 30, 2008, a Willmar detective received photos of two potential suspects who were associated with the car, but photographic lineups did not produce a solid identification.

According to the findings of fact in an omnibus order ruling on several motions in the case in 2022, the sexual assault kit taken at Rice Memorial Hospital was not sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension crime lab for testing until March 10, 2021. The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety provided grant funds to test kits not previously submitted.

On March 12, 2021, Willmar police received a report from the BCA crime lab that concluded the source material came from one male. According to the criminal complaint, a DNA sample later taken from Merino matched the DNA sample from the sexual assault kit.

The detective in April 2021 interviewed the woman who had owned the car and the man who had been driving it in Willmar.

According to court records, the driver, interviewed at his residence in Huron, South Dakota, told the detective that he believed the girls were 15 or 16 but that the girl who rode in the back seat had said she was 18.


He saw Merino and the girl kissing and also said there was a discussion about payment for sex, according to the narrative in the complaint. He said he told Merino not to do anything the girl didn’t want to because he could go to jail for a long time.

After more investigation, the detective eventually on April 30, 2021, made contact with Merino at his residence in Huron, South Dakota. A Huron Police Department officer also arrived as the detective did not have the power to make an arrest in South Dakota, and according to the findings of fact, Merino was not in custody at any point during his interaction with the detective.

Merino made attempts to call an attorney, according to the complaint, and the detective asked Merino to provide a voluntary DNA sample, to which Merino later agreed.

In briefs filed by defense attorney Brandon Lauer, the interaction is described as chaotic and confrontational, with a translator on speakerphone as Merino speaks limited English. The brief says the detective kept asking for a voluntary DNA sample after Merino continued to say that he needed an attorney and was attempting to call one on his phone. The brief states that the detective “did not seem to take no for an answer."

Lauer also states in his motion brief that the case had been turned down for prosecution before.

In addition to providing a DNA sample, Merino during the April 30, 2021, police visit to his residence also spoke with the detective. According to court records, Merino confirmed he was in Willmar in April 2008 and recalled meeting the two girls. He said he could not remember how old the girls were and denied raping anyone.

A warrant for Merino’s arrest was eventually issued June 29, 2021.

Lauer filed motions to dismiss the case based on lack of probable cause and to suppress the results of the DNA test and the statements made by Merino. Both motions were denied by Judge Jennifer Fischer.

Dale Morin is a reporter with the West Central Tribune. He covers public safety and breaking news beats.

Dale can be reached at or by phone 320-214-4368.
What To Read Next
Get Local