Bemidji man gets 26 years in prison for Belgrade church assault
WILLMAR -- Lindon Roy Knutson, 62, was sentenced today to 312 months in prison, and conditional release for the rest of his life, on a first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge for sexually assaulting a 73-year-old woman last November at Crow River Lutheran Church near Belgrade.
The sentence was a double upward departure from state sentencing guidelines, which is allowed by state statute in the cases of sexually dangerous offenders. Judge Michael J. Thompson handed down the sentence in Kandiyohi County District Court.
Knutson is the Wisconsin sex offender who listed a Bemidji address but has spent much of the past 30 years in Wisconsin prisons and in mental institutions for multiple sex crimes.
He was also sentenced to 78 months in prison on an aggravated robbery charge, for beating the woman and taking her purse, and ordered to pay $12,746.43 in restitution for the victim's hospital bills and other costs and $2,000 in fines from his prison earnings.
The victim said during the hearing that she was cleaning the chuch when she heard footsteps upstairs. She gave Knutson directions and a tour of the church before he hit her from behind, knocked her down and got on top of her.
"I pleaded with him not to do what he was going to do," she said, asking God's forgiveness for lying in church. She'd told Knutson she didn't have any money, but had $300 in her purse for Christmas shopping. She then detailed how Knutson sexually assaulted her and that she prayed for help after Knutson left the building. At that moment, a church parishioner drove by and she flagged him down. The man drove her to a nearby clinic, from which she was taken to the Paynesville hospital. She spent three days in the hospital recovering.
Before he was sentenced, Knutson apologized for the pain he caused to the victim, her family and community and thanked the court officials, prosecutor and his public defender.
"I'm sorry for the physical and emotional pain I've caused," he said. "I'm going home now. I won't have to worry about stuff on the outside."