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Lancaster man faces sex crime charge in Beltrami County

BEMIDJI -- A 25-year-old Lancaster, Minn., man has been charged with two felony counts of criminal sexual conduct after allegedly traveling to Blackduck to have sex with an underage girl.

Cody Bernhardt is being held at the Beltrami County Jail on one count of third degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child. According to court documents, both charges stem from an investigation in Blackduck.

A criminal complaint states Beltrami County Sheriff deputies responded to a call in Blackduck on March 2 regarding an adult male sending inappropriate text messages to a child who was younger than 16 years old. According to the complaint, the victim's parents reported discovering the messages were from Bernhardt and were sent via Facebook Messenger.

According to court documents, the victim provided a statement indicating communication between the two started two-to-three weeks earlier, via the social media app Tik-Tok.

Cody Bernhardt

The messages found by deputies, with timestamps from March 1-2, indicated Bernhardt allegedly traveled from his residence in Lancaster to the victim's home in Blackduck. Lancaster is in Kittson County, just south of the Canadian border, and is about 152 miles northwest of Bemidji.

The victim also indicated in a statement to law enforcement that Bernhardt arrived in Blackduck at 1 a.m. and they were both in his car from about 1 to 8 a.m.

In the messages reviewed by investigators, Bernhardt acknowledged having sex with the victim.

Law enforcement officers went to Bernhardt's residence on March 12, and during their investigation, he admitted to performing sexual acts with the victim, including penetration. With a search warrant, officers also investigated Bernhardt's vehicle and found several condoms. Additionally, investigators used buccal swabs to obtain samples from areas of the upholstery that were illuminated under an alternative light source.

Bernhardt made a first appearance in court on Thursday, March 14.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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