Repeat offender charged in sexual assault near campus

by Joanna Dornfeld

Minneapolis police charged a 34-year-old man Thursday for allegedly sexually assaulting a 31-year-old woman jogging in the St. Anthony Main area Feb. 18.

Dennis Lee Whitley Jr. was charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct – using force or coercion to accomplish a sexual act. He was also charged with failure to register as a predatory offender, according to the criminal complaint.

Whitley was convicted of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1989, fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1991 and attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1994, according to the criminal complaint.

He has a history of assaulting female strangers, according to a Minneapolis police statement released Tuesday.

Whitley turned himself in to Hopkins police Wednesday after seeing a news story about himself on television, said Minneapolis police Lt. Mike Sauro.

Neither Whitley nor the victim is affiliated with the University.

According to the criminal complaint:

The victim was jogging along West River Road when Whitley rode his bicycle alongside the woman and began talking to her.

“You’re pretty active. Are you a model?” Whitley asked the victim, who ignored him.

Whitely followed the woman as she continued to jog across the Stone Arch Bridge. They approached a wooded area in the 400 block of Southeast Main Street.

When Whitley said, “I think you have a nice body,” the woman became frightened and began running as fast as she could.

On his bicycle, Whitley caught up to the victim and grabbed her buttocks and grabbed between her legs.

“It was more of a groping thing over the clothes,” Sauro said.

According to the criminal complaint:

The victim told police she thought Whitley intended to assault her further. She pushed Whitley away and pretended to call police on her cellular phone, which was temporarily out of order.

Whitley fled across the Stone Arch Bridge. The victim then used a passerby’s phone to call police.

Sauro said he thinks Whitley was deterred from further action by the number of people in the area.

The victim identified Whitley in a photo lineup. Police searched for him at his last known address, but he was no longer living there, according to the criminal complaint.

As of press time, Whitley remained in Hennepin County Jail. His bail is set at $100,000, and he will appear in court Friday at 9 a.m.


Joanna Dornfeld covers police and courts and welcomes comments at [email protected]