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Moose Lake man guilty of sexual assault

A 32-year-old Moose Lake man is in Carlton County Jail awaiting sentencing following a guilty plea in March to felony criminal sexual conduct. The charge is related to a 2023 incident involving a vulnerable 15-year-old girl.

Justin Eugene Arbuckle pled guilty March 6 to third-degree penetration of a victim under 18 — impaired/incapacitated/helpless.

The victim is on the autism spectrum and requires use of an individualized education program in school. She was considered vulnerable, “easily manipulated,” and in need of supervision, according to court documents.

Arbuckle had first communicated with the girl on social media, under the auspice of needing a babysitter. Arbuckle lived in a camper on a relative’s property, where a toddler needed care.

Arbuckle and the victim exchanged nude photographs, according to the criminal complaint, and later Arbuckle performed sexual acts on the girl, including kissing, fondling and penetration.

He was originally charged with a series of felonies, before agreeing to one guilty count prior to a trial that had originally been scheduled for May.

Judge Amy Lukasavitz ordered a psychosexual evaluation for Arbuckle at Illumé North in Duluth to be completed prior to sentencing. Arbuckle is scheduled for in-person sentencing in Sixth District Court in Carlton at 3 p.m. July 17. Arbuckle is faced with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

According to a criminal complaint, Arbuckle and a relative picked up the girl from her residence in a minivan on May 12, 2023. An acquaintance of the girl observed the van leaving her home and called authorities, saying the girl left with people her family did not know. The acquaintance later speculated Arbuckle was in the van, based on information from the girl’s internet tablet.

The acquaintance then beat authorities to Arbuckle’s residence on Tower Road and a confrontation ensued between numerous people, including the victim’s sister, and involved pushing and the threat of a baseball bat.

A deputy separated the people and sorted through witness reports, while confiscating the victim’s tablet.

During questioning by the Moose Lake police, Arbuckle denied sexual contact and said any semen found inside the victim had been taken by her from a condom he’d previously disposed of. He said the girl lied about her age, despite admitting his relative told him how old the girl was.

A search warrant of Arbuckle’s camper resulted in two condoms being found and collected for processing.

Arbuckle remains in jail on $200,000 bail, awaiting the July sentencing.

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