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Petition targets offender: Polk County authorities cite man's extensive history of assaults

A man who admitted sexually assaulting 20 women and abusing a 5-year-old girl is set to get out of prison Monday. His likely destination: East Grand Forks, Minn., his former home.

A man who admitted sexually assaulting 20 women and abusing a 5-year-old girl is set to get out of prison Monday. His likely destination: East Grand Forks, Minn., his former home.

But that might change after the Polk County Attorney's Office and the Minnesota Attorney General's Office filed a civil petition Friday seeking to have Douglas W. Piker, 40, committed as a sexual psychopathic personality and sexually dangerous person.

Piker is completing a 2½-year sentence for an attempted burglary charge stemming from November 2000, when witnesses saw Piker lurking outside the bedroom window of a 7-year-old girl with a camera and flashlight.

While in prison in 2002, Piker admitted to sexually assaulting 20 women, cases for which he was never prosecuted, according to the commitment petition.

Piker told prison officials he broke into apartments and touched women's private parts while they slept.


He also admitted masturbating over a sleeping 5-year-old girl and looking in the windows of about 100 women over a period of a year hunting for someone to assault, the petition stated.

When Piker is released Monday from the Minnesota Correctional Facility at Moose Lake, deputies will be waiting to transport him to the Polk County Courthouse for an emergency detention hearing.

Prosecutors will ask a judge to order that Piker be held pending the outcome of the civil commitment action, said Leslie Sandberg, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.

According to information provided by the attorney general's office:

Piker's criminal history began in 1976 when he committed forgery and theft at the age of 12.

At 19, he went on a crime spree, burglarizing businesses and a high school, for which he faced 14 counts of burglary and destruction of property.

After serving time for those offenses, Piker stabbed a man at a party and served time for the assault. Following that sentence, he was arrested for burglary, theft and disorderly conduct.

After his incarceration for the November 2000 incident, Piker was labeled by the Department of Corrections as a Level 3 sex offender, considered the most likely to reoffend.


Interagency feud

Piker's case prompted a governmental tit-for-tat Friday in what has become an ongoing feud between the attorney general's office and the Department of Corrections.

"With no civil commitment recommendation" from the Department of Corrections, Polk County secured opinions from two doctors who said Piker should be committed as a sexually dangerous person, the attorney general's office said in a written statement announcing the petition.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Kris Eiden is quoted in the release as stating the Department of Corrections inappropriately assessed sex offenders in the past but proper review of offenders by county attorneys has "resulted in more offenders being petitioned for civil commitment."

By law, the Department of Corrections cannot state whether someone has been referred to county authorities for civil commitment, said Harley Nelson, a deputy commissioner for the agency.

However, Nelson said, in December the department began referring all Level 3 offenders for commitment and the agency has "followed that policy explicitly."

Civil commitment jumped to the top of many policymakers' agendas after Dru Sjodin, a University of North Dakota college student, disappeared from a Grand Forks mall last November and a Level 3 sex offender was arrested.

Sjodin's body was found in April near Crookston, Minn., the home of suspect Alfonso Rodriguez. Rodriguez was not referred for civil commitment by the Department of Corrections when he was released from prison in 2003.


Rodriguez now faces federal charges in Sjodin's death.

His arrest in December was the catalyst for the Department of Correction's policy to refer all Level 3 offenders to county attorneys for consideration of civil commitment.

The agency has referred 110 cases since January and is on track to top 200 by the end of the year, Nelson said.

"I think we're doing our job," he added.

A message left at the office of Piker's attorney, Richard Sather of Thief River Falls, was not returned Friday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com.
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