8 April 2022
A teenager accused of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl waiting for her school bus in St. Paul nearly six years ago has been arrested in Illinois and charged Friday in juvenile court in Ramsey County.
The suspect, who is now 19, was arrested Monday at a hotel in the St. Louis suburb of Cohokia Heights, Ill. Agencies involved in the apprehension included the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI.
St. Paul police said the suspect, who was 13 at the time of the attack, confessed to their investigators. He now awaits extradition back to Minnesota, police said. Because of his age at the time of the offense, police explained, his name is not being released.
The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office charged the suspect by juvenile petition with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping.
“While the individual in question is now 19 years old, his age at the time of the offense — 13 — renders both the petition and the court proceedings nonpublic,” the County Attorney’s Office explained in a statement.
Since state law does not allow anyone under age 14 to be charged with a crime, prosecutors “will not be able to pursue adult certification proceedings,” the statement added.
However, the suspect could be compelled by the court to register for life as a sex offender should he be found guilty in juvenile court.
According to police and the County Attorney’s Office:
About 8:10 a.m. on May 2, 2016, officers were called to the area of Cook Avenue and Park Street after a bus driver reported finding the girl crying and bleeding from her face. She was taken to a hospital, and an examination found that she had been sexually assaulted.
In the years that followed, teams of investigators from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies worked to identify the suspect who led her away from her school bus stop and assaulted her.
On Dec. 1, 2021, the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension confirmed it had a match for the suspect with DNA collected in 2016. From that piece of evidence, investigators periodically searched through the National DNA Index System and located the suspect.
“This case is an example of why we never give up or stop working on behalf of victims,” St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the arrest. “Hopefully, justice can be served, and this can be another step towards healing for the little girl and her family.”