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Man pleads guilty in sexual assault of woman in assisted living facility

David Erwin Delong

A male caregiver at the Heritage House in Pequot Lakes admitted in a Brainerd courtroom he sexually assaulted a 78-year-old woman with Alzheimer's disease in the assisted living facility.

David Erwin DeLong, 60, Pine River, pleaded guilty July 21 to one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd, after a staff member at the assisted living facility reported catching him in the act of sexually assaulting the woman in May 2016.

DeLong was charged with six felony criminal sexual conduct charges—three third-degree and three fourth-degree—in the case. In the plea agreement, DeLong agreed to three years in prison, an upward departure from state guidelines of a two-year sentence, court documents stated. DeLong is required to go through a psychosexual examination and a chemical dependency evaluation.

Judge Earl Maus scheduled DeLong's sentencing hearing for 9 a.m. Oct. 19.

The victim, who was in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease is now deceased, the Star Tribune reported.

Robert Krause, 60, of Pequot Lakes, the victim's son, told the Star Tribune the family was told of the assault just a week before DeLong's plea hearing—more than a year after the incident. No one at the facility even mentioned the incident, Krause said, during his many visits to see his mother before her death last September.

Krause said he never would have allowed his mother to return to the Pequot Lakes facility had he known about the assault, the Star Tribune reported.

According to the criminal complaint filed against DeLong in Brainerd court, he sexually assaulted the 78-year-old woman in May of 2016. The woman then was nonverbal, wheelchair-bound and unable to feed herself, requiring around-the-clock care, the complaint stated.

At 11:06 p.m. May 8, 2016, a Pequot Lakes officer was dispatched to the Heritage House on the report of a possible sexual assault of a resident. The officer met with a staff member, working in the same building as DeLong, who reported she interrupted DeLong committing what she believed was a sexual assault.

The staff member said she was the only other person working in the building at the time, and wanted to leave for a cup of coffee between 9:15-9:30 p.m. She went to find DeLong to tell him, and noticed the door was closed to the room he was in. She told the officer she tapped on the door a few times, waited a second or two, and then opened the door.

Inside, the staff member said the resident was lying on her side in a fetal position with her backside positioned outwards, naked from the waist down. DeLong stood several feet away sweaty and out of breath, the staff member said, jumping up and down attempting to pull up his pants and underwear. DeLong allegedly turned around and looked at his co-worker, said "I," but then stopped, shaking his head before turning his back.

The staff member told the officer she was so shocked, she didn't know what to do. She closed the door and immediately reported what she saw to a nursing staff member working in the next building. That staff member contacted the director of the facility, who directed him to bring DeLong into the office for a conference call. DeLong allegedly denied the allegations during the phone call, and was sent home.

The officer made arrangements for the resident to be transported to Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd to undergo a sexual assault exam. While preparing the woman for transport, it was discovered she was wearing a different nightgown than the one the staff member observed when she walked in on DeLong. Staff later located the nightgown and a mattress pad from the resident's bed washed in the washing machine, and all on-duty staff denied placing the items there.

The remaining bedding, clothing and underwear worn by the victim were gathered and sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for analysis, along with the sexual assault exam kit completed at the hospital.

Four days later, DeLong voluntarily provided a DNA sample, which was also sent to the BCA. A DNA sample from the victim was also sent to the lab. In June, the BCA issued a preliminary report, indicating semen was identified on swabs taken from the victim as part of the sexual assault exam. In August of 2016, the lab issued a final report, which indicated DeLong's DNA profile matched the one found in the victim's exam.

In a January interview with the Dispatch, Donnie Anderson, director of nursing at Heritage House, said when the allegation came to light, DeLong was immediately suspended and was terminated within 48 hours of the investigation beginning. Anderson said DeLong passed the criminal background check conducted on him prior to his employment. A search of DeLong in the Minnesota court system showed convictions for misdemeanor traffic violations, but no previous sexual-related offenses.

Anderson, who was not hired at Heritage House until after the incident occurred, said a review of the facility's practices and policies by Minnesota Department of Health showed they were in full compliance with all requirements under the license. The current provider license for the facility was effective as of Aug. 1, 2016.

Anderson said an investigation into whether there were more victims—which she said entailed numerous interviews with other residents and staff members—resulted in the conclusion there was just one victim.

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