« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Wendy Reuer, Published August 20 2013

State recommends release of Moorhead sex offender convicted of multiple offenses

MOORHEAD – A decade after a Clay County judge ordered a Moorhead sex offender to indefinite civil commitment, he has been recommended for release.

Prosecutors sought civil commitment for Kirk Fugelseth, 47, in 2003 after he admitted to molesting 31 children and committing acts of bestiality.

A Minnesota Department of Human Services official said Fugelseth’s petition for release was recommended for approval by a three-person special review board of the Department of Human Services after a hearing in May.

The state Supreme Court of appeals will decide if Fugelseth can be released, but no decision or hearing date has been set, the official said.

Clay County Attorney Brian Melton said Tuesday that he would prefer Fugelseth that remain under the supervision of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.

“I think the best place for him is the most secure facility,” he said.

MSOP is a program for sex offenders who have served prison sentences, but have been court-ordered to receive treatment. MSOP operates in two locations: Moose Lake and St. Peter. The program has been under legal pressure to show it is not a just a lifetime sentence for sex offenders.

Although he feels MSOP is the best place for Fugelseth, Melton said the constitutionally of keeping him indefinitely confined could be unconstitutional.

Mental health professionals have reported Fugelseth has responded to treatment.

In a July 26 letter to the court of appeals, Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said she did not oppose the advisory board’s recommendation of conditional release.

Jesson wrote that Fugelseth’s discharge would include 30 conditions, including continuing outpatient treatment.

“The plan includes safeguards to protect former victims and the public, and other measures to ensure his safe and successful reintegration,” Jesson wrote.

Jesson said Fugelseth would be placed in a halfway house in Golden Valley, and then transitioned to a long-term placement. He would be subject to GPS monitoring and face-to-face visits by MSOP staff, among other conditions.

Fugelseth has been confined since a nearly two-week civil hearing in 2003. Clay County District Judge Kathleen Weir ruled that Fugelseth met the state’s definition of a “sexually dangerous person and sexual psychopath.” She said in her written decision that that a treatment facility was the only appropriate option for Fugelseth.

Fugelseth admitted to the offenses during his trial and treatment, according to Forum archives. The Minot, N.D., native has faced criminal charges three times.

In 1994, Fugelseth was convicted in Oregon on criminal sexual conduct charges involving two victims. That same year, he moved to Moorhead and in 1999, he was convicted in Clay County District of having sexual contact with someone under the age of 16.

In 2001, Fugelseth was taken to a federal prison after he was convicted in U.S. District Court of possessing child pornography.

When his sentence ended in April 2003, he was transferred to a security hospital in St. Peter.

Clay County is responsible for the roughly $200,000 civil trial and was charged with paying 20 percent of the cost of holding Fugelseth in a treatment facility, which can cost up to $100,000 per year.

Melton said if Fugelseth is removed from civil confinement, the county’s financial obligation would decrease.

“At some point, there is an obligation on him to start paying his [living expenses],” Melton said.

Along with Fugelseth, the DHS review board recommended that Thomas Duvall be released. According to court records, Duvall was convicted of raping a 17-year-old Brooklyn Park girl at knife point in 1987 after completing a prison term for a separate rape conviction.

Before 2012, only two men had been released from the sex offender treatment program. One man returned on a technical violation and the other was released in 2012, according to the Star Tribune.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530