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Sacred Heart man facing felonies for molesting 15-year-old

OLIVIA -- A Sacred Heart man has been charged with four felony counts and one gross misdemeanor count of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in May.

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OLIVIA - A Sacred Heart man has been charged with four felony counts and one gross misdemeanor count of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in May.

Steven Allen Rice, 59, made his first court appearance on the charges Friday in Renville County District Court. His next court date is Sept. 26.

The felony charges come because the alleged perpetrator is more than 4 years older than the victim, and because he was in a position of authority over her and had a significant relationship with her. The gross misdemeanor charge has to do with nonconsensual sexual contact.

The assault occurred in late May, while the girl was staying at the Rice home in Sacred Heart.

According to the criminal complaint against Rice allegedly put his feet on the girl's buttocks while they were watching television in the evening. She was on air mattress on the floor, and he was sitting in a chair behind her.

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When she was going to bed later, he allegedly hugged her and whispered, "See you tonight."

After she had gone to bed, Rice allegedly got into bed with her and tried to reach under the covers. When she stopped him, he wrapped his arms around her and touched her buttocks and vagina and rubbed them through her clothing, according to the complaint.

After he left her room, the girl sent text messages to her sister and a cousin, describing the assault. When she returned home, she reported the assault to her local police department.

When Rice was interviewed in June, he initially denied whispering to or touching the girl, then said he was chilled and sat on her bed to give her a hug, according to the complaint. Then he told the officer interviewing him that he should have shot himself with his gun that night.

Rice later left the area, without telling anyone where he was going. An arrest warrant was issued for him in late June. He was arrested in Iowa in August and brought back to Minnesota this week.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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