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West Fargo man pleads guilty to sex with minor; girl’s mother pleads to deprivation charge

Chad Francis Gourneau

FARGO — A West Fargo man has pleaded guilty to gross sexual imposition for having sex with a girl starting when she was 13 years old, and the girl's mother has submitted an Alford plea to contributing to the deprivation of a minor for allowing the relationship, according to Cass County District Court documents.

Chad Francis Gourneau, 19, entered his plea to the felony charge on Monday, April 23, and his sentencing date has not yet been set. Gourneau is being held at the Cass County Jail.

Prosecutor Ryan Younggren said a presentence investigation and a risk assessment are being done to determine penalties and what registration level Gourneau will have as a sex offender.

Gourneau, who was charged in November 2017, told police he had been living at the girl's home since November 2016, and said he was in a sexual relationship with her. He said he thought she was 16 when they began the relationship but later discovered she was 13, court documents said.

Court documents say the girl became pregnant but lost the baby because of an ectopic pregnancy.

In October 2017, the girl's mother was charged with a felony count of child neglect. The Forum is not naming the mother in order to not reveal the girl's identity.

On April 9, the mother entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor count of contributing to the deprivation of a minor, according to court records. With an Alford plea, a defendant doesn't admit guilt, but acknowledges there's enough evidence that a judge or jury could find him or her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

According to court documents, the girl's mother knew Gourneau was having sex with her daughter but let him share a bed with the girl.

Imposition of the mother's sentence was deferred. Instead, she must serve a year of unsupervised probation, court records show.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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