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Bemidji woman, 73, charged with felony sex crime

BEMIDJI - A 73-year-old Bemidji woman has pleaded not guilty to felony criminal sexual conduct.

Janet Verjean Kern pleaded not guilty Aug. 7 to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim who is mentally impaired or helpless.

She entered the plea Aug. 6 before Beltrami County District Judge John Melbye. Her next court date was set for Oct. 16.

Kern is accused of sexual misconduct involving a 6-year-old autistic boy who was known to her.

According to the criminal complaint, the boy reported that Kern had touched him inappropriately while she was not wearing clothing or underwear.

The boy was with Kern on May 15 when he was found nude from the waist down, according to court documents. Kern was covering her lower body with a blanket and said she was feeling sick.

She later told investigators that the boy needed a change of pants, according to court documents. While helping him do so, Kern said, she coughed and experienced urinary incontinency, so she removed her own pants and undergarments to change them as well.

Kern, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State's website, was the owner through May of the North Country Trading Post in Bemidji.

She has no criminal history.