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Woman pleads not guilty to abuse, neglect of teen

Paula Johnson1 / 2
Kevin Sells2 / 2

MANNING -- Paula Johnson, a Killdeer woman charged in connection to the sexual abuse of her 14-year-old daughter, pleaded not guilty at a hearing at the Dunn County Courthouse Wednesday. Her bond was lowered to $1,000.

Kevin Sells, 41, of Killdeer has been charged with gross sexual imposition, a Class A felony, for allegedly having sexual contact with the girl earlier this year, according to a Dunn County criminal complaint.

Johnson is charged with abuse or neglect of a child, a Class C felony, for allegedly allowing Sells to remain in her home unsupervised after she was aware there was sexual contact by him to her daughter, according to the complaint.

"A third party notified law enforcement and of course we initiated our investigation which ultimately resulted in the charges," said Ross Sundeen, Dunn County state's attorney.

Sundeen said Sells was living in Johnson's home at the time of the incident. However, the relationship between Sells and Johnson is unclear.

"Shortly before criminal charges were brought against Paula Johnson she delivered, or brought, the child to the father's home," Sundeen said.

Sundeen said the girl will remain in her father's custody.

At the hearing, Johnson asked if her bond, which was originally set at $2,500 could be lowered.

"My husband is the one who posted that bond, so we'd like to get it back," Johnson said.

Sundeen suggested her bond be lowered to $1,000 and Southwest Judicial District Judge William Herauf accepted.

"I agreed to lower her bond because I don't perceive her as a flight risk," Sundeen said. "Initially I was concerned about the safety and well-being of the child and the prospect of her having contact with the child, but I'm not now because of the change of custody."

Johnson waived her right to a preliminary hearing and said she plans to apply for a court-appointed attorney.

Sells was also scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday, but it was rescheduled. Sundeen said Sells' attorney, Jay Greenwood, was recently appointed to represent Sells and wanted more time to prepare.

Sundeen said Sells has a criminal history, but it does not include any other sexual-related crimes.

Sells' bond was set at $10,000 in August. He is held at the Southwest Multi County Correction Center in Dickinson.

Johnson and Sells bond conditions also stipulate that neither have contact with the victim.

Johnson declined to comment after the hearing.