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Luverne man jailed for molestation
LUVERNE — A 76-year-old Luverne man is in jail after being accused of having a sexual relationship with his adopted daughter over a period of years, allegedly fathering her two children. The victim, 31, alleges her adoptive father began having intercourse with her when she was 13 years old.
Leo Edwin Roger Swenson was arrested at approximately 5 p.m. Thursday, and was charged Friday morning with one count each of first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct. His bail hearing is set for Tuesday afternoon.
The complaint states Swenson went to the Rock County Law Enforcement Center Wednesday afternoon to speak to a deputy about his adopted daughter, whom he said was missing. He told the deputy his daughter’s purse and keys were at home, but she was gone. He indicated they had an argument over car insurance earlier in the day, and he was afraid she had run away from home. The deputy said he would try to find the woman, but because she was an adult, she did not have to have contact with her father if she chose not to.
The deputy spoke with the woman, who indicated she was fine and did not want contact with her adopted father or her brother, who had gone to the law enforcement center with his father.
The woman said she had been in contact with family services and was requesting an order of protection against Swenson and her brother. She also wished to report physical and sexual assault that had occurred against her.
A female deputy was sent to talk to the victim and learned from family services that a safe location had been located for the woman and her daughter. Her son, who had become physically abusive toward his mother, was being placed in foster care for the night.
The victim told the deputy her adopted father had been having sexual intercourse with her for many years. She indicated her pregnant mother had moved in with Swenson when she was 12 years old. At the time, her mother was in the hospital having the baby, her adopted father had attempted to have sex with her, but was stopped by a phone call.
When she was 13, the victim alleged, Swenson repeated his attempts to have sex until she complied. After that, she said, they had intercourse almost every day until she was 24, when she had appendix surgery. After that, their sexual contact decreased to about once a month.
The victim said Swenson never used protection and that he was the father of her two children, ages 13 and 9. She had been pregnant one other time, she said, but had miscarried.
Swenson allegedly told her never to tell anyone they were having sex or that he was the father of her children. The children’s birth certificates did not list a father, she said.
Swenson was interviewed at the law enforcement center and read his rights. An investigator asked Swenson about sexual contact between himself and the victim. Swenson said he could not recall any specific details, but did not deny he could be the father of the children. When asked who else the father could be, he allegedly indicated there were no other likely fathers.
During the interview, he admitted he possibly could have had sex with the victim one or two times, but did not have a clear recollection of it. He said he was sure if it had happened, the victim would have been the one to initiate it because “he wouldn’t do that.”
Court records state Swenson’s adoption of the girl was approved Oct. 29, 1990.
According to Rock County Sheriff Evan VerbruggeP, Swenson refused to volunteer a DNA sample, so the county will seek permission from the courts for a sample for paternity testing.
“This is the kind of case that family services, law enforcement and crisis centers do not like to investigate, but it is something we have to do in order to protect the victims,” Verbrugge said. “I feel bad for the victims, because their private life will now become public. They will need the support of the community to get through this ordeal.”
The investigation, he added, is still ongoing, but he does not believe further charges will be presented.
Swenson is held in the Nobles County Jail pending the bail hearing. He faces a maximum combined penalty of 45 years incarceration and/or $70,000 in fines.