John F. Knudson was every parent's nightmare as he stood in front of Ramsey County District Judge Gary Bastian on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to sexually molesting a 9-year-old girl whom he had lured to his side in Iris Park in St. Paul.
Knudson, 69, has been convicted of at least seven other sexual offenses in three states since 1963.
Under questioning from his attorney, Katherine Pruitt, and prosecutor Juan Hoyos, Knudson said that he and another man had consumed two bottles of vodka and that he doesn't recall everything that happened the afternoon of Oct. 3. But he didn't dispute anything when Hoyos recited the allegations.
Knudson was sitting on a bench in the park near University and Prior Avenues about 6 p.m. when the girl walked past the park and he yelled for her to come to him.
When she hesitated, he picked her up and carried her to the bench. When she tried to leave, he held tightly to her hand and restrained her.
"When all this happened, I was pretty well blacked out but that's probably what happened," Knudson said.
Knudson grabbed the girl's wrist and led her south to Prior Avenue, then toward a railroad overpass. He walked into a "more wooded area," Hoyos said, then into a clearing surrounded by grass and trees.
There he unbuttoned and unzipped her pants, pulled her pants and underwear down and molested her.
"The girl said this hurt her, injured her," Hoyos said.
"I don't remember that but I'd say so, yes," Knudson responded.
He pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and will be sentenced by Bastian on Feb. 3. Another charged of kidnapping will be dismissed.
The plea agreement calls for a "middle-of-the-box guidelines sentence." With a criminal history score of zero, that would be 90 months. Because Knudson has a record, he could get more, Hoyos said after the hearing.
According to the criminal complaint, Knudson was convicted in 1963 in Nashville, Tenn., of assault with attempt to commit rape; in 1970 in Wisconsin with impersonating a police officer; in 1970 in La Crosse, Wis., with false imprisonment; in 1973 in Red Wing, Minn., with kidnapping and indecent liberties; in 1975 in Wisconsin of sexual perversion and false imprisonment; in 1985 in Chippewa Falls, Wis., with second-degree sexual assault, and in 1985 in Red Wing with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. The complaint said all of those involved sex offenses.
When Bastian asked at the hearing Wednesday what evidence would be submitted, Hoyos agreed to provide two interviews that Knudson had with police, but said he'd prefer to keep a videotape interview with the girl, done at the Midwest Children's Resource Center, "as private as possible."
"Thank you for making it so we don't have to submit her videotape," the girl's mother said to Hoyos as the girl's parents left the courtroom.
Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992