A onetime supervisor for a popular Halloween attraction in Shakopee sexually assaulted a 15-year-old co-worker in the first of many encounters spanning months, according to charges.
Bryan E. Ellinger, now 31, of Shakopee, was charged Wednesday with first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with the assaults, which began in the fall of 2013.
Ellinger, who has other sex-related criminal cases on his record, was charged by warrant and jailed late Thursday afternoon ahead of a Friday court appearance. His girlfriend said he would not be answering questions about the allegations.
The criminal complaint raised the possibility that Ellinger assaulted other girls who worked at the Trail of Terror. County Attorney Ron Hocevar said he's hoping that if there are other victims and "they see the ice has been broken, they'll come forward."
Ellinger has at least two other sexual assault convictions in Minnesota, according to court records. He was charged in Scott County as a juvenile in 2007 and found guilty of third-degree sexual assault for having sex with someone more than two years younger than him as well as indecent exposure.
He was convicted as an adult for failing to register as a predatory sex offender in 2009, about a year before he started working at the Trail of Terror, which lasted until 2019.
A spokeswoman for the operators of the Trail of Terror, Mid-America Festivals, said late Thursday that the company was not aware of the most recent allegations against Ellinger until police shared the information in November.
Stephanie Whipps also said Mid-America Festivals does not initiate background checks on prospective contractors but has them promise in writing to follow Mid-America Festivals policies, including avoiding harassment or causing other harm. Each of the contractors also attest to having a history free of crimes or conduct that causes or risks violence against vulnerable adults or children.
According to the complaint:
Now in her early 20s, the woman reported her allegations to police in November. That was about two months after Ellinger ended years of silence between the two and reached her on Snapchat.
The woman told police she had a crush on Ellinger, who managed the Trail of Terror trailers that held Halloween displays. He also kept tabs on contract employees and maintained the safety of the actors should visitors get too close.
She said the two of them went into one display and had sex for the first time. She said Ellinger "had a history of sexual relationships with other young females that worked at Trail of Terror, and she suspected he didn't care about age," the charges read.
Soon after Halloween in 2013, she and Ellinger went to a hotel with several of his friends, and he assaulted her there at least twice, once after she blacked out from drinking.
The assaults continued every time they were together until she ended the relationship in February 2014. Ellinger contacted her six months later, but she cut off communication for the next several years.
When the communication resumed on Snapchat in 2020, Ellinger admitted assaulting her and knowing her age then. The woman took photos to preserve the exchange.
Ellinger started by apologizing, writing, "I was just using you."
The woman asked about the night in the hotel with others there, and he couldn't remember what happened.
"Wow you raped me Bryan in front of everybody," she told him.
"Other girls back then told me you'd sleep with them while underage," she wrote. "In my opinion you are a predator Bryan."
He replied: "Yea I really was not going to lie."
Five days after the woman went to authorities, a police detective contacted Ellinger. Ellinger said he worked at the Trail of Terror for 10 years, admitted to the assault on Trail of Terror grounds and said other encounters occurred at his mother's home in Shakopee. He characterized the time in the hotel as a "drunken night."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482