$500,000 bail set for man accused of committing sexual assualt on teenage girl
A Stearns County Judge set bail at $500,000 for Benjamin Ajqui Delacruz, a 21-year-old Melrose man who was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct of a 14-year-old female on the Lake Wobegon trail a half-mile west of Melrose.
Immigration officials are also looking into Delacruz as a potentially being in the country illegally. Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner said ICE has put a detainer out on Delacruz and when that happens usually it leads to the suspect being in the U.S. unlawfully.
Delacruz was arrested after deputies responded to a call from the victim. He is suspected of forcing the female into the ditch and after a physical struggle, sexually assaulting her.
According to the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department, the suspect allegedly left the area of the assault when another bicyclist passed by. The female eventually was able to use another cyclist’s phone to call 911. A Stearns County deputy who was in Melrose at the time of the call found the suspect riding his bicycle heading eastbound on the trail. After the deputy attempted to make an arrest, the suspect fled to a nearby cornfield. Area law enforcement officers monitored the perimeter of the field and waited for K-9 units to track the suspect. Another deputy found the suspect emerge from the cornfield on the west side of Melrose where he was arrested without incident and brought to the Stearns County Jail.
Delacruz is currently being held on charges of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, which carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison.
According to Sanner, DNA evidence was collected and will be sent to a lab for processing.
“It’s sad that a 14-year-old girl can’t ride her bicycle on a beautiful summer day without becoming a victim,” he said.
Sanner said the man’s name was verified and that deputies are looking into his background.
Sanner reminded trail users to try not to ride or walk alone in secluded areas.
“If you know you’ll be in a secluded area, try not to go alone,” he said. “Unfortunately we live in a time when predators look for opportunities like that. Ride with friends. It makes you a less desirable target for predators.”
Sanner said he believes this may be the first sexual assault on the trail since the trail was constructed. He said there have been reports of suspicious activity and exposure incidents in the past, but nothing as serious as a sexual assault.
The Sauk Centre and Melrose Police Departments and the Minnesota State Patrol assisted at the scene. The incident remains under investigation by the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office and it is anticipated the case will be forwarded to the Stearns County Attorney’s Office later Wednesday.