The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 29, 2013

Lake Crystal man pleads guilty to sex assault

By Dan Linehan
The Free Press

MANKATO — A Lake Crystal man pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of criminal sexual conduct connected to two incidents last fall when police say he raped 12- and 13-year-old girls.

Prosecutors dismissed 10 other charges against William Marcus Daniel Edwards, 22, in exchange for the guilty pleas. A jury trial had been slated to begin earlier this week.

Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Chris Rovney said sentencing guidelines call for 60 months in prison and a conditional release for the rest of Edwards' life. Sentencing is scheduled for late March.

Each guilty plea was connected to one of two separate incidents, though both involved a then-21-year-old Edwards meeting young girls on Facebook and arranging in-person meetings.

The first incident, which happened on Oct. 17, involved a 13-year-old who told police she and Edwards went to a playground near his Lake Crystal apartment. She said she drank a bottle of pop or water provided by Edwards, then became dizzy and went numb. Edwards then assaulted her when they were alone, she told police.

Police said Edwards admitted to having sex with her but denied drugging her.

Children under 16 cannot give legal consent for sex in Minnesota.

Edwards was charged with using force and coercion on a helpless victim in this case, but those charges were dropped. Instead, he pleaded guilty to having sexual contact with someone 13 to 15 years old while being at least two years older than the victim.

The second incident, which occurred Nov. 13, involved Edwards meeting a 12-year-old girl at a post office and taking her to his apartment, police said.

She told police Edwards pushed her down and kissed her, and she attempted to fight back but was choked until she went unconscious. They were both stripped from the waist down and he was biting her stomach when she woke up, she told police.

Though both guilty pleas were for third-degree criminal sexual conduct, it was the plea for the alleged rape in the apartment that resulted in the charge for assaulting someone who was mentally incapacitated. This is a more serious charge and is the one that might send him to prison, Rovney said.

The Free Press was unable to contact Edwards' attorney.