A 25-year-old Pillager man who pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of felony animal torture and domestic assault by strangulation appeared in person for his sentencing Monday, Oct. 25, in Crow Wing County District Court in Brainerd.

Judge Patricia A. Aanes sentenced Jonathan Nevarez to three years in prison for the most serious charge of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor victim along with a 21-month sentence for the strangulation felony and 12-month sentences for each of the two animal torture offenses. Aanes issued each of the sentences under a stay of execution, meaning Nevarez will not serve prison time as long as he complies with the lengthy list of conditions of probation, on which he will remain for 15 years. The sentences fall within the state’s sentencing guidelines, which take into account the offender’s criminal history and severity of the crimes.

“I hope you are successful on probation,” Aanes told Nevarez at the conclusion of the sentencing hearing. “ … I hope you will take very seriously all the opportunities you have in programming. … There’s a lot required of you and there’s a lot hanging over your head.”

Jonathan Nevarez
Jonathan Nevarez

The first case against Nevarez, which prior to his plea saw him facing 10 felony charges, originated with a March 2020 report to the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office alleging Nevarez sent inappropriate messages to young girls. A month later, investigators interviewed the mother of a 9-year-old child, who told police her daughter disclosed several instances during which Nevarez — who was known to the victim — engaged in sexual behaviors with her. The behavior included inappropriate touching of the child’s private parts as well as offering nude or semi-nude photographs of himself and requesting the same of the child via social media platform Snapchat.

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The victim later shared further details of the incidents with the Family Advocacy Center of Northern Minnesota, including that Nevarez established a secret Snapchat account for the child and offered food or drink in exchange for sexual photos and inappropriate touching.

The mother also told investigators Nevarez tortured and killed four different family cats, two of which were kittens he beat before placing them into a bag and burying them in the snow, where they froze to death. He killed a third cat by beating it with a bat and a fourth by drowning it in the toilet, she said, and sent the mother videos of the abuse on Snapchat. Nevarez also made comments about raping women and murdering people, according to the mother, and asked her to buy him a gun on multiple occasions.

Nevarez met with investigators and admitted to some of the accusations leveled by the victim and victim’s mother, including instances of criminal sexual conduct as well as the cat killings. He also acknowledged the killing of a fifth cat as well during his interview, according to the complaint. Nevarez told investigators his intent was sexual in exchanging photographs and stated he would accept the consequences of his actions. A summons was ultimately filed Dec. 31, 2020, in the case.

About two months after Nevarez met with investigators, the court granted an order for protection for the mother, which was followed by a domestic abuse no contact order two months after that. Nevarez repeatedly violated these orders through daily messages and phone calls, according to the Jan. 5 charging document in the domestic assault case for which he was sentenced. He was charged with misdemeanor offenses for violating these orders first in August 2020 and then in October 2020.

The victim described to a Brainerd police officer a previous situation during which Nevarez became physically abusive with her after she gave him a ride from a friend’s house. Nevarez repeatedly struck her with a pop bottle and kicked her in the shins before throwing her on a bed and placing both his hands around her neck, squeezing so she couldn’t breathe. She shared messages she’d received from Nevarez, including more than 40 messages sent by him that day alone.

When asked by the officer why she hadn’t reported the incident of abuse, the victim told the officer she felt as though she couldn’t get away from Nevarez and upon his release from jail for a previous violation of their no contact order, he came to her home and assaulted her at that time as well.

After officers found Nevarez and arrested him, he acknowledged the regular contact but stated the victim also initiated contact with him. He said he couldn’t remember the physical assault because he was “blackout drunk” and only knew of it because the victim told him the next morning.

Prior to sentencing, Assistant County Attorney Janine LePage described Nevarez as “very cooperative” during his pretrial release, noting he was supervised by a probation agent before his sentencing because of the concern with his underlying conduct. He maintained contact with that agent and had already completed chemical dependency treatment, LePage said, who asked his probation period be reduced from the possible 25 years to 15 years.

“Going forward, he has a lot of incentive to make change,” LePage said.

LePage also read from a victim impact statement written by the father of the minor victim of sexual abuse. The father stated the previous year was a stressful one for his family with his child only paying visits to the mother for fear of the possible return of Nevarez at any given time. He stated he was glad to see the case come to an end and asked the judge for full consideration of all parties involved in handing down the sentence.

Nevarez’s defense attorney Conrad Kragness told the judge he agreed with LePage’s assessment of the case, stating after 10 to 15 years of probation, officials will know if Nevarez intends to comply and if not, he’ll face additional charges and prison time. Kragness said because of previous contacts with Nevarez during which he was not compliant, he was pleasantly surprised by Nevarez’s cooperative attitude and apparent willingness to abide by the terms of his probation. He acknowledged the fact patterns of the case were egregious, but Nevarez did not try to deny the allegations.

“He seems very sincere in working to change what got him here,” Kragness said.

Among the numerous conditions imposed on Nevarez were requirements to attend probation agent-approved counseling to address the criminal sexual conduct and domestic abuse while complying with all recommendations of the counseling, along with complying with any recommendations from a psychosexual evaluation. He must also take a cognitive skills course under the direction of probation.

Nevarez was prohibited from contact with both victims as well as any children under 18, with the exception of supervised visitations with his own children, subject to any future orders by a family court judge. The judge warned Nevarez if he violates these orders, he will face new charges in addition to being found in violation of his probation.

Nevarez will not be allowed to own a firearm for the rest of his life, nor will he be permitted to own a pet or companion animal. He is not allowed to possess or view any pornographic material or visit any businesses such as strip clubs or adult bookstores, nor is he allowed to use alcohol or other drugs or enter establishments including bars or liquor stores. He remains subject to random searches of his property and monitoring software for internet-connected devices, and he must register as a predatory offender.