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Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, Published December 20 2013

Former day care worker charged with sexually molesting children

GRAND FORKS - A Manvel man was arrested Friday and faces four felony charges of sexually molesting children at a church day care center in Grand Forks.

Timothy Tollefson, 29, remains in the Grand Forks County jail pending his initial appearance, probably Monday, on the four Class A felony charges of gross sexual imposition with a child under 15. Each count carries a top sentence of 20 years on prison if he is convicted.

According to Grand Forks Police Detective Steve Conley, Tollefson admitted to rubbing the bare behinds of four girls, ages 3 to 4, while helping them sleep at nap time in a darkened room at Immanuel Christian Children’s Center, attached to Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1710 Cherry St.

Tollefson began working there as a substitute teacher in 2009 and said about August 2012 he began touching girls there during nap time, using blankets to conceal his activity from other employees of the Center, according to Conley’s affidavit of probable cause.

Conley said other employees at the Center became concerned this fall about Tollefson’s behavior, in which he seemed to be inappropriately touching children and watching girls as they used the bathroom.

Those concerns led to interviews of children at the Center by Tammy Knudson, of Grand Forks County Social Services, and interviews of Tollefson by Conley.

He was fired by the day care center in November.

Conley searched Tollefson’s home on Thursday and said he found many images of children, including many in diapers, as well as sexually-themed photos and videos of adults wearing diapers.

Conley said in his affidavit he thinks there is probable cause Tollefson is guilty of possessing child pornography, but Tollefson has not been charged with any child pornography offenses.

According to a news release from the Grand Forks County state’s attorney’s office, Tollefson also worked at Lil Point/Little Miracles East in East Grand Forks in 2008 and 2009. Anyone with information or concerns about this case should call police at (701) 787-8000, according to the state’s attorney’s office.

Blake Hankey, a Grand Forks attorney, said his son attends the Center.

“This is obviously very concerning and very alarming,” Hankey said. “You kind of get a false sense of security that bringing your child to a day care center as opposed to a home day care, that all the proper safeguards are in place to make sure your kids are safe.”

Hankey said he will talk to the Children’s Center director and others before deciding if his son will keep attending it.