WINONA, Minn. — A Spicer man accused of a 2018 home invasion and rape in Winona County pleaded guilty to two charges.
Zane Robert Pederson, 32, pleaded guilty Friday morning to one charge of first-degree criminal sexual conduct — penetration — causing fear of great bodily harm. He also pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary for entering the woman’s home two days before the attack.
His sentencing has been scheduled for Feb. 10, 2021.
He had been indicted in 2019 on 18 counts of criminal sexual conduct and burglary related to the Nov. 18, 2018, attack on a woman in her home. If convicted of some charges in the indictment specifying “heinous elements,” Pederson could have faced life in prison.
Pederson has been in custody since his arrest in March 2019 with bail set at $2 million.
In a plea agreement, Pederson agreed that the attack involved multiple penetrations. He also agreed the victim was particularly vulnerable during the attack, because she was in bed when it started, she had been zip tied during a part of the incident, and her ability to flee was complicated by the presence of her young child in the home.
Those factors led to an agreement that Pederson was likely to receive an aggravated sentence of 250 months, which would be 20 years and eight months. He will receive credit for the time he has already served in jail since March 2019 and will be required to serve at least two-thirds of his sentence in custody.
Pederson was identified as a suspect in the Winona case through DNA he provided voluntarily in a separate investigation by the Willmar Police Department in late 2019.
Pederson was accused of a sexual assault on a man living in a Willmar group home where Pederson worked. After the man reported the assault, Pederson denied the incident occurred. After an officer asked if his DNA could be on the man’s body, Pederson said it should not be and provided a sample.
Pederson’s DNA tied him to both the Willmar and Winona assaults.
According to court records, the woman in Winona County awoke in the night to sounds in her house and saw a man in a mask standing at the foot of her bed with a handgun.
Pederson was accused of raping the woman three times. At one point he threatened to go to her child’s school and kill the child. The woman said she would do anything to protect her child, and he told her to prove it.
Between assaults, he told her not to move while he moved around in her home. He allowed her to check on her child once.
Pederson allegedly talked about using the woman’s own gun to kill her so that a family member would be blamed. The woman begged for her and her child’s lives. Pederson allegedly claimed it was a joke, saying he was “a rapist, not a monster.”
During the third assault, he placed a handgun by her face on the bed, court records state.
Pederson talked about drugging the woman so he could leave, but she said she needed to look after her child, so he didn’t drug her.
Before leaving, he tried to destroy some evidence. The woman later found that an article of her clothing was missing.
Evidence collected from the woman’s body and from a firearm was matched to Pederson, whose DNA was on file from the Kandiyohi County investigation.
After the DNA match, authorities questioned Pederson. According to the complaint, he said he had been using methamphetamine again and had gone to the woman’s home intending to steal photographs off her computer and phone.
He told authorities he was looking for the woman’s computer when she found him crawling in her bedroom, and he said she suggested having sex.
During a search of Pederson’s home and property, investigators allegedly found clothing like that worn during the assaults, a loaded handgun and the article of clothing that had been taken from the woman’s home.