Mehtala pleads to three rape chargesA serial rapist faces a proposed 50-year sentence after pleading guilty or no contest to three counts of second-degree sexual assault Monday in Douglas County Circuit Court.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
A serial rapist faces a proposed 50-year sentence after pleading guilty or no contest to three counts of second-degree sexual assault Monday in Douglas County Circuit Court.
Craig Allen Mehtala, 28, of Superior, pleaded no contest to one of the felony counts and guilty to the other two in front of Judge Kelly Thimm. All three charges are class C felonies.
Mehtala faces a maximum combined penalty of 120 years imprisonment and up to $300,000 in fines. A sentencing hearing was set for July 16.
Assistant District Attorney Lance Nelsen told Thimm he would cap his sentence recommendation at 50 years – 25 years of initial confinement and 25 years of extended supervision. But, he noted after Monday’s hearing, Thimm does not have to accept the recommendation.
Nelsen said it was crucial for the victims that Mehtala plead to all three crimes.
“He victimized these three people,” he said. “It’s an absolute requirement in a case like this that his pleas reflect exactly what happened.”
The charges stem from three stranger assaults that took place last summer in Superior’s North End. In each case, a woman walking alone in the early morning hours was attacked from behind and sexually assaulted.
An alert neighbor, good police work and DNA evidence led to the conviction.
Superior police responded to Wade Bowl on Aug. 29 for a phoned in report of what sounded like a young boy yelling for help. When they arrived, they noticed Mehtala running from the scene and identified him, asking if he had called for help. The woman who had been assaulted later called in, telling police she saw them talking to the man who may have attacked her as she was running from the site.
Officers located Mehtala and were able to get a DNA sample, which linked him to the crime. It also matched DNA evidence retrieved from an earlier incident June 21 in the parking lot of Dan’s Feed Bin. The DNA profile from that June attack had already been found to match evidence left behind at the scene of an unsolved 2006 Burnett County sex assault case.
Mehtala is expected to plead to the Burnett County charges – second-degree sexual assault and battery – later this month. His attorney, Chris Gramstrup, indicated that sentencing could take place that date. The Superior attorney said he will request that both the Burnett and Douglas county sentences be served concurrently.