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Former minister convicted in northern Minnesota child sex case

Darwin Frederick Schauer

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. - A former minister in Cass Lake and Lake George was convicted Thursday after a jury found him guilty of six sex crimes involving a child.

A Hubbard County jury found Darwin Frederick Schauer, 71, of Laporte, guilty on six charges after a trial this week.

Schauer sexually assaulted his victim during a three-year period, starting in spring 2009.

The jury of eight women and four men finished deliberating Thursday, returning guilty verdicts against Schauer for two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. All the charges related to contact with a minor at least 13 years old, but less than 18, while Schauer was in a position of authority.

Schauer was charged with Fourteen Counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct of a minor at least thirteen but less than 18 years of age while being in a position of authority over the minor.

Prior to the jury receiving the case for deliberation, a judge dismissed eight allegations on the grounds of duplicity of the charges.

The most serious convictions of first-degree criminal sexual conduct each carry a maximum penalty up to 30 years in prison.

According to a news release, Hubbard County Attorney Donovan Dearstyne and Assistant County Attorney Erika Randall said they'll seek an aggravated sentence for Schauer. At a Dec. 28 court hearing, the prosecutors plan to present evidence to support a stricter sentence, including criminal sexual conduct in 1983 in Nicollet County.

Schauer waived his right to have a jury determine whether or not he should receive an aggravated sentence.

Now Judge Paul Rasmussen will determine whether aggravating factors apply for Schauer's sentencing.

The Park Rapids Enterprise reported Schauer, formerly a minister at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lake George, retired from the church in 2008.

His arrest came after a complaint was filed March 4 with the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office and an investigation was launched. Don Kirchner, who replaced Schauer as the church's pastor, reported the incident that led to Schauer's arrest.

At the time of that arrest, Kirchner issued a statement saying: "The congregation of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lake George is devastated by this terrible news. I've seen and shared in the members' emotions that have moved from shock, to tears of grief, even to anger... But most of all and most importantly, our hearts and prayers go out to the young victim of these horrific acts."

Schauer has been jailed since April in Hubbard County on $1 million unconditional bond.

The Enterprise also reported earlier this year that Schauer reached out to the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod's South District and sought to continue work as a minister after the 1983 conviction.

By decade's end, Schauer was admitted into a program for certification as a lay minister. Schauer's first placement was with Immanuel Lutheran Church of Cass Lake, then Trinity Lutheran Church of Lake George, where he was commissioned as a lay minister. Initially a Black duck pastor mentored or supervised him, allegedly aware of Schauer's criminal history. The Trinity and Immanuel parishes merged in 2000.