By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — A 28-year-old Mankato man told a police officer he was in a tanning booth stretching his shoulders when a woman in the adjacent booth caught a glimpse of his cellphone.
The woman told the officer she was at Anytime Fitness in May and tanning in the nude when she opened her tanning bed and caught a glimpse of a hand holding a cellphone above her. The person holding the phone was in the neighboring booth and holding the phone over the top of the wall, she reported.
She closed the top of the bed and peeked again after waiting awhile. The hand and phone were still there when she looked, but she heard a stumbling sound like someone getting off a chair a short time later.
An employee at the business checked surveillance video for when the woman was tanning. It showed the woman going in her booth at about 10 p.m. and Gerhardt Francis Zerwas entering the neighboring booth about 15 minutes later, according to a criminal complaint filed in Blue Earth County District Court. Fewer than 10 minutes after that, Zerwas is seen walking out of his booth, going out an exit and running from the building.
The employee said Zerwas didn’t have a tanning account and shouldn’t have been in the booth.
After watching the video, an officer went to Zerwas’ residence to interview him. He told the officer he was in the booth to stretch his sore shoulders. Zerwas also said he was standing on the chair in the booth and might have had his cellphone in his hand while he was stretching, according to the complaint. He denied taking any pictures or videos.
The phone was taken and searched. No photos or videos were found at first, but a detective did find an application on the phone called “iErase: Government Edition.” The detective also found a phone directory that isn’t easily accessible by phone owners. It had thumbnail photographs that appeared to show photographs and videos taken at a high angle in a tanning booth, the complaint said.
Recent Google searches on the phone included “Mankato Police Department” and “Forensic recovery: phone video,” the detective reported.
Zerwas is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 20 for a gross misdemeanor charge of interfering with privacy in a tanning booth.