Therapist accused of sexually assaulting girl

Published 9:42 am Monday, March 30, 2015

MANKATO  — A clinical therapist at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a girl and threatening to kill her if she told.

Wanda Viento, 57, of St. Peter, was charged with several felonies Friday. Bail was set at $200,000 without conditions, and Viento remained in the Blue Earth County Jail Sunday, according to online jail records.

In a statement, Anne Barry, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which oversees the sex offender program, called the charges “serious” and said officials “are very concerned,” but noted the charges are unrelated to Viento’s state duties.

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According to the complaint, Mankato detective Tom Rother interviewed a girl in Minneapolis who said Viento first molested her when she was about 9 or 10.

The girl said Viento and an unidentified woman both sexually assaulted her, threatened her with a knife and promised to kill her if she told her mother or anyone else about the alleged abuse. Viento had babysat the girl when Viento lived in Mankato. The girl said the last case of abuse was last fall.

Rother interviewed Viento, who confirmed she had babysat the girl. When Rother told her the girl had told a therapist about Viento allegedly sexually abusing her, Viento said “What, are you kidding?” and denied ever sexually touching the girl.

At Viento’s initial hearing Friday, Blue Earth County prosecutor Steven Kelm asked for bail of $300,000 without conditions.

“I believe the defendant poses a great public safety risk,” Kelm said.

Public defender Richard Hillesheim argued Viento has no criminal record, has a job and doesn’t pose a flight risk.