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Published September 24 2012

Arrest made in parking lot sex assault in Moorhead

MOORHEAD – The woman pretended to be passed out, hoping it would fend off a stranger who punched her in the face and then sexually assaulted her in a downtown Moorhead parking lot.

It didn’t work.

Though the man initially stopped and walked away, he followed her again after the woman took off on foot from her car shortly after 4 a.m. on Sept. 6.

She was screaming and running down Main Avenue when she flagged down a car, jumped through its open window and told the driver to call for help. She warned the driver not to get out of the vehicle.

“He’s going to come,” she said of the attacker, who police think is Richard Lee Haaland Jr., a convicted rapist who lives in Fargo.

Those are the allegations included in a complaint filed Monday in Clay County District Court charging Haaland, 46, with first-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with the incident. He was arrested late Friday when authorities executed a search warrant at his north Fargo residence, Moorhead Lt. Tory Jacobson said.

Haaland, who according to court documents and public records has a prior rape conviction in Becker County, Minn., and served time in federal prison for drug charges, is being held in the Cass County Jail pending extradition to Minnesota.

According to the complaint:

The alleged victim told police she had just pulled into her apartment parking lot and sent a text message to a friend when a stranger dressed in black opened her car door, punched her in the face and told her to “shut up.”

After punching the woman in the face, the suspect pulled down her skirt, and she began to scream. He punched her again in the face before sexually assaulting her, she told police.

The woman suffered a broken jaw in the assault, the complaint states. She was treated at Sanford Medical Center and later released.

Police collected surveillance video images from businesses in the area showing a man in the downtown area around the time of the assault, which occurred at about 4:10 a.m. near Fifth Street and Main Avenue. After releasing the images to the public, police received at least two anonymous tips identifying Haaland as the person in the images, the complaint states.

Investigators gathered additional interviews and evidence that led to the arrest, Jacobson said, calling the tips from the public “very important” to the case.

Since images of the suspect were released in the media, Haaland has taken time off work while telling others he is at work, and he has also withdrawn a large amount of money from the bank, the complaint states.

He was convicted in 1984 in Becker County and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for a rape conviction. In that case, he sexually forced himself on a woman out for a walk on County Road 4 on July 29, 1983.

Haaland was also sentenced in 1993 to serve more than 8 years in federal prison on charges related to distributing and growing marijuana.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528