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Man and woman die in rollover crash south of Wahpeton

Minn. group home employee, resident admit stealing from homes while delivering papers

Matthew Lee Johnson1 / 2
Sebastian Nickolas Roush2 / 2

WILLMAR, Minn. — A vulnerable adult and an employee of the group home where he lived pleaded guilty Thursday in an August rash of thefts they perpetrated while delivering newspapers around Willmar.

Matthew Lee Johnson, 32, of Atwater, and Sebastian Nickolas Roush, 18, of Willmar, each pleaded guilty to felony third-degree burglary, felony theft and a gross misdemeanor charge of third-degree criminal damage to property.

As part of the plea agreement, the other 11 charges, which included other felony burglary, theft and receiving stolen property charges, will be dismissed.

Both Johnson and Roush, as part of their plea deals, will be responsible for paying $2,814 in restitution.

Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 15, while Roush will be sentenced Dec. 13.

According to the court documents, Johnson and Roush from April through early June stole from several residences in Willmar while on Johnson's paper route. The two stole approximately $3,701 worth of items, including sound equipment, tools, a computer and a DVD player.

Authorities learned of the thefts June 6 after staff at the group home where Johnson lived contacted police about items they found during a routine check of Johnson's room. The staff also told police that some items that had been locked in an office — goods they thought might have been stolen — were missing as well.

Johnson told law enforcement that he and Roush had stolen items from different properties. They would go through garages and vehicles of the homes along the paper route, court documents said. Johnson also said Roush and he took the items from the staff office and disposed of them in Green Lake by dumping them off a public dock.

The court documents said items were found in about 4 to 6 feet of water in Green Lake where Johnson said they would be. All of the items in the lake, valued at $643, were electronic in nature and were unusable after recovery.

Johnson said that they would sometimes store the stolen goods at the home of one of Roush's relatives. The relative told law enforcement Roush had asked if he could store things in the garage. When the garage was searched, more of the stolen items were found, the court documents said. Some of the stolen goods were returned to their owners.

When Roush was first interviewed by police, he denied having been involved, but later said he had been with Johnson when the items were taken, but that he never went inside any vehicles or residences, the court documents report.

According to the court file, Roush has also been investigated by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The department concluded that recurring maltreatment occurred because Roush neglected Johnson's care on many occasions. Roush was disqualified from holding a job in which he would have contact with people receiving services from many different types of state-licensed facilities. Roush could appeal the ruling.

The report also said the group home, run by Crows Nest Programs, conducted its review and found its policies and procedures were not followed and that all staff need to be retrained on the Reporting of Maltreatment of Vulnerable Adults Act.

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