Man Sentenced, 32 Years After the Crime

September 04, 2018 06:19 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- A man who was wanted for sexual assault back in 1986 fled the country; then, in April, mysteriously returned to the U.S., where law enforcement recognized him, then arrested him on that still valid outstanding warrant.

"When someone gets to a foreign country. It's nearly impossible to get them back," said Mark Ostrem, Olmsted County attorney.


"Impossible" was all investigators had to go on for the past 32 years.

It was May of 1986 when a warrant was issued for Stephen Bratrud, who at the time was living in Olmsted County.

A detective with the Rochester Police Department received a referral from the Fountain Lake Treatment Center, saying a 15-year-old girl had reported that Bratrud had sexually assaulted her for 10 years, starting when she was just 5 years old.

Court documents say when the warrant was issued, Bratrud fled to Bolivia, South America, an area he was known to frequent.

And for the next 32 years, he was untraceable.

"We had probable cause, the complaint signed, the warrant signed and that preserved the case for us for the next 32 years," Ostrem said.

Then, in April 2018, the impossible actually happened: Bratrud returned to the United States, and was arrested in Quitman, Texas.

"He came back to get some kind of medical care," Ostrem said. "I believe he was a veteran and he may have been seeking some kind of treatment through the VA. For whatever reason, he was recognized by law enforcement. In the course of their process of taking down names and checking things out, his warrant popped up."

He was arrested and taken into custody in Texas, then extradited back to Olmsted County, where he finally faced those 1986 sexual assault charges.

"The laws and the sentencing provisions have changed dramatically in 30 some years," Ostrem said."The presumptive sentence if he was found guilty of the top count ... was 40-some months in prison. Today, that same charge would be 144 months (in prison)."

That's a difference of nine years in prison, but the courts must adhere to the sentencing guidelines from 1986, when the crime was committed.

That means that when Bratrud was sentenced Aug. 20, he pled guilty to second-degree criminal sexual misconduct with someone he knew, under the age of 16. He was sentenced to 25 years of probation, with just a few months of jail time to serve.

"In our world today, it's disheartening to think that basically as a community, and a state, we were so naive back then, to think that that was a low level felony," Ostrem said.

It's a felony that changed the life of Bratrud's victim, who Ostrem said still lives in the area.

"I think she hoped that he would never come back," Ostrem said. "We had some good conversations with her. She was very understanding and very willing to participate in the process."

Once released from jail, Bratrud will be required to stay in Olmsted, Fillmore or Dodge County. He's required to participate in community service and attend sex offender treatment program.

"There's a lot of things about this person that are a little unsettling," Ostrem said, "but we deal with this on a fairly frequent basis and I have great confidence in our probation department that they can monitor him and keep our community safe."

Bratrud wasn't charged with fleeing the country, Ostrem said, because he hadn't appeared in court and been officially charged when he left the country 32 years ago.


Noelle Anderson

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