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Detroit Lakes home health nurse charged with sex offense with client in Wadena

A home health care nurse from Detroit Lakes was charged with having a sexual relationship with a vulnerable adult in her care in Wadena.

On June 16, the alleged victim, a 44-year-old man being treated for schizoaffective disorder, traumatic brain injury, asthma, arthritis, hypertension and a pathological gambling problem, told his Wadena County Human Services case manager that he had carried out a sexual relationship with Wendy Ann Stiegel, 50, his home health aide, according to court records.

The man told the case manager and later police that the relationship started with hugging and kissing, and eventually led to sex about once every two months over the course of two years, court documents said. The man said he and Stiegel would exchange small gifts, with him usually giving her small amounts of money, and she got him items like clocks or scratch-off lottery tickets. He said despite his gambling problem, one time Stiegel brought him 20 $2 scratch off tickets, which yielded $50 in winnings.

The man allegedly told police both he and Stiegel knew the relationship was wrong, and at one point she told him, "It should never happen that this kind of stuff goes on." But the man said he fell in love with Stiegel, according to court documents.

Police interviewed Stiegel, who runs a business called Guiding Angels in Detroit Lakes, a nursing services company. Stiegel initially denied any sort of sexual relationship, but said the man had wanted one. But after police revealed what the alleged victim told them, Stiegel admitted one sexual encounter with the man, but said that was the extent of the relationship, court record said. She said she was afraid to leave the apartment and "just went with it." She said she never reported the incident.

Stiegel was charged July 19 with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, and each count was related to her position of authority over the man, and his impaired status. Both charges are considered serious felonies under the law, and carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine.

Stiegel's first court appearance was set for Aug. 8.