Willmar man sentenced to 14 years for sexual assaults over several years


— A jury of Kandiyohi County residents entered nine guilty verdicts to varying charges of criminal sexual conduct against a Willmar man.

Edin Gaspar Cruz Flores, 44, also known as Marcelino Rivera Rodriguez and Pedro Juan Castro-Cruz, was convicted in Kandiyohi County District Court of four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, four counts of second-degree and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, according to the sentencing order.

According to the criminal complaint, Flores was accused of assaulting two female juveniles from 2006 to 2011, beginning when they were both about 11 to 12 years old. The two reported the incidents to police as adults in January of 2022.

According to court records, one woman alleged that the abuse continued into her adulthood resulting in alcohol dependency and a child fathered by Flores.

On Aug. 25, Flores was sentenced on five of the nine guilty verdicts the jury had entered. Four convictions, including two counts of first-degree, one second-degree, and a fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, were not adjudicated and included as lesser offenses.

He was sentenced to 351 months in prison for the first count of felony first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He received credit for 569 days served between his arrest and sentencing.

Conditions will include him paying consecutive fines and fees for all the five of the concurrent sentences. He will also be required to register as a predatory offender in Minnesota and will be on lifelong conditional release once he is out of prison.

He was also sentenced to concurrent 300-, 234- 210- and 32-month sentences. All but the 300-month sentence for a second-degree criminal sexual conduct charge were upward departures from presumptive sentencing guidelines.

Under Minnesota law, convicted offenders must serve at least two-thirds of their sentence in custody and may be allowed to serve the remaining time on supervised release. Flores is currently incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud. His expected release date is Aug. 5, 2041.

Two victim impact statements were read to the court. The first came from a letter from a foster mother who shares joint custody for the daughter of one of the women.

The foster mother said she first got to meet one of the women and her then-9-month-old daughter. She recalled it took a while before the woman opened up about what had happened to her and how she felt ashamed.

The woman had told the foster mother that Flores said no one would believe her if she told anyone about the ongoing abuse.

"Her bravery is evident," the foster mother said, "and I am happy to accept not one but two girls into my family."

Assistant Kandiyohi County Attorney Kristen Pierce read the woman's written impact statement to the court. Pierce read, "I want the court to know that I don't hate the guy."

In the letter the woman said, "I just want to know why ... what did we do to him to have him hurt us in this way?"

The letter went on to state, "I hated his touch and he knew it. I hated it every time."

She said that she was hurt deeply when she found out she was pregnant. She went on to say that she had conflicting feelings in pregnancy and the first few months raising her daughter, she said there were even times she thought about harming her and herself.

However, she sees her daughter as a blessing and loves her deeply, but still fears causing pain to her because, "one day I will have to tell her what happened."

The woman said she has survived because of God and her faith. She also thanked the attorneys, the judge, advocates within the court system, and her family for their support.

Despite the hurt, she concluded her letter by forgiving Flores, who appeared to be holding back his emotions.

Flores denied the charges against him when given the opportunity to speak before sentencing.

He said through a court interpreter, "I am innocent of all the charges."

He asserted that the two women had made false statements in their testimony. He said he believes in justice and he knew Judge Stephen Wentzell to be a fair judge, who would issue a fair sentence.

Wentzell admonished Flores and said that his actions were not only beyond the norm but also well beyond the norm of the statutes themselves.

"These were children at the time of the offenses," he said. "You used alcohol to take away what little defense they had so you could satisfy your own gratification."

According to the criminal complaint, one of the women recalled several assaults and that she had been given alcohol each time, but could not remember specific details.

The other woman alleged that when she was 11 years old, Flores, who she knew as Wilmer Cruz, assaulted her in her father's home. Flores lived in the same residence at the time. She did later report the assault to a teacher, who then told police.

Police came to her house when she, her father and Flores were home. Police asked to speak with Wilmer Cruz, but Flores gave another name and said that Wilmer did not live at the residence.

According to the complaint, the girl's father didn't know what was going on and confirmed Flores' statement to police that Wilmer Cruz did not live at the address.

According to the complaint, the woman stated that she moved out to a new house with her mother and that Flores had also moved to the new house. She said Flores lived with them for two or more years and that he continued to provide alcohol and sexually assault her. Flores was eventually kicked out after the woman's mother found out he had given alcohol to her.

However, the woman said the assaults continued after Flores was kicked out because he would buy alcohol for her. When the woman was 20 years old, she found out she was pregnant, and the complaint alleges that Flores is the father of that child.

According to the complaint, Flores left for a short period of time but came back after the woman did not make a report. Flores then allegedly began contacting and threatening her in order to continue a sexual relationship.

At the Jury trial on April 13, Michael Woods, of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, testified that DNA testing could not exclude Flores as the possible biological father of the woman's daughter.