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In Facebook, local investigators find leads

In Facebook, local investigators find leads
Detective Brad Nelson of the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office holds a printout of the Facebook profile picture of Raymond Anthony Duque Jr., who was convicted in connection with a 2010 sex assault in Oronoco. Locating Duque's Facebook profile helped authorities locate him and arrest him one day later.

On Dec. 1, 2010, three days after a woman was sexually assaulted at a party in Oronoco, authorities were stuck in their efforts to identify a suspect they knew only as "Ray."

At that point in the investigation, Ray was something of a mystery man — he was new to town and a newcomer to the group that was partying on the night of the assault.

On Dec. 1, however, people who knew the victim went to Olmsted County Sheriff's Office Detective Brad Nelson and pulled up the Facebook account for 29-year-old Raymond Anthony Duque Jr. The profile picture not only matched Ray's description, but in it he wore the same tan coat he had the night of the assault.

"It was really the trigger that made it go fast after that," Nelson said. Duque was arrested the next day and later pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was sentenced to nearly five years in prison.

Facebook isn't used in every criminal investigation, but it's becoming a more commonly used tool for investigators both locally and statewide.


At the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Facebook is increasingly checked as part of investigations involving missing people, homicides and narcotics, among other crimes, according to Senior Special Agent Drew Evans.

"As time goes by, it's becoming a matter of course," said Evans, who is a supervisor in the BCA's homicide division.

Locally, cases involving Facebook include those in which alleged threats and admissions were made on Facebook. In some cases, citizens have used Facebook to do sleuthing of their own.

Examples include:

• Alex Joshua Gustafson, 20, who allegedly posted threats on Facebook about killing a man. Days later in Rochester, on Jan. 25, 2011, Gustafson shot at the victim from his car. He was convicted of felony drive-by shooting and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison.

• Aaron Adam Sell, 24, who in February 2011 allegedly threatened to post naked and scantily clad pictures of a Rochester teenager on Facebook if she didn't pay him $150. He was convicted of misdemeanor attempting to coerce and sentenced to two years probation.

• Aaliyah Nicole Lamb, 17, who in September allegedly threatened a Rochester teenager on Facebook before the victim was assaulted by a group of teens and his mother's car was damaged. Lamb was adjudicated delinquent of first-degree damage to property and sentenced to probation until her 19th birthday.

• Hannah Kathleen Hohmeister, 17, who allegedly used Facebook earlier this year to discuss a violent threat she's accused of making against a Byron High School basketball player after a game. The girl who was threatened used a Facebook search to identify Hohmeister, whom she didn't know, according to the complaint. Hohmeister has pleaded not guilty to charges, including terroristic threats, with a court trial scheduled for May 8.


Finding the Facebook profile was important in the 2010 sex assault case because Duque came from another state, apparently had no permanent housing in Rochester, and could have disappeared before investigators identified him, Nelson said.

"This guy could have skated for a long time," Nelson said.

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