Elbow Lake man found guilty/convicted in rape, kidnapping of ex-girlfriend
WILLMAR -- The trial for a 20-year-old Elbow Lake wrapped Wednesday afternoon with the jury deliberating for little more than 30 minutes before returning five verdicts of guilty.
Ernest Ray Longoria faced three kidnapping charges, first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct charges and a charge of violating a no-contact order after tying up his ex-girlfriend May 7 in her Donnelly home before raping and kidnapping her.
The trial -- originally a Stevens County trial -- was moved to Kandiyohi County after the granting of a defense motion that argued pre-trial media coverage may have tainted the jury pool.
The Kandiyohi County jury heard two days of testimony before returning verdicts of guilty on two of the three kidnapping charges, both counts of criminal sexual conduct and the violation of the no-contact order. The jury did not deliberate on the third kidnapping charge, a lesser charge of false imprisonment, after convicting Longoria of the two other kidnapping charges.
After raping her in her Donnelly home, Longoria drove his ex-girlfriend to Elbow Lake and told her he was taking her to Texas. Longoria and the woman were stopped May 8 by a South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper along Interstate 29 in Brookings County, according to the criminal complaint.
Stevens County Attorney Charlie Glasrud said the outcome of the trial was appropriate. He said Longoria will be sentenced in Morris at a later date, but was unsure when.
Longoria faces a minimum sentence of 12 years in prison for the rape of his ex-girlfriend. "Not to say that it couldn't be more," he added.
Glasrud said aggravating factors in the case may result in the judge handing down a more severe sentence. "I think that a kidnapping charge can be run consecutively to a rape charge," he continued. Consecutive sentences would run one after the other, resulting in a longer prison stay.
Glasrud said it seems reasonable for Longoria to be punished additionally for the secondary act of kidnapping.
Longoria took the stand Wednesday as the first witness for the defense. Longoria choked up when discussing his prior relationship with the woman, struggling at times to answer questions. Longoria disputed few of the facts presented throughout the trial during his testimony.
During closing arguments, Longoria's attorney, Kenneth Kludt, warned jurors that the world is not as simple as it seems.
"I'm not gonna stand here and tell you my client is innocent of all charges," Kludt said. He went on to ask the jury to convict his client of the lesser of the charges -- third-degree criminal sexual conduct and false imprisonment. "Mr. Longoria was acting out a love fantasy," Kludt said.
The jury also heard from 20-year-old Jocelyn Deutsch, who notified authorities about Longoria after the woman spoke to Deutsch in the bathroom at a South Dakota rest area.
Deutsch and the people with whom she was traveling called 911 and left the rest area before Longoria, but Deutsch said she could see Longoria's vehicle behind them while they were traveling south along Interstate 29. She recounted how she called 911 a second time after several highway patrolmen passed in the northbound lane.
"I told the operator that three highway patrol had already passed us and I was getting worried," she said. The fourth, she testified, turned around and stopped Longoria.
Although not allowed into testimony, Deutsch was later given the Everyday Hero Award from the governor of South Dakota for her efforts leading to Longoria's arrest.
Testimony was also heard from Stevens County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Dingman and South Dakota Highway Patrolman Josh Olson about the route Longoria used to travel from Donnelly and also about the discovery of a part of the rope believed used in the assault.