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Guilty plea for child sex abuse charges; case among 'most egregious' in Grand Forks County

A Grand Forks man pleaded guilty Thursday to sexually abusing a girl for six years, beginning when she was 6.

Matthew Lyons is facing up to life in prison on the Class AA felony count of continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Lyons, 36 at the time of his arrest, rejected an offer from prosecutors of life in prison and instead entered an "open plea," of guilty, leaving his sentence up to state District Judge Sonja Clapp.

The judge set his sentencing for March 27 and ordered a pre-sentence investigation.

Meredith Larson, an assistant state's attorney for Grand Forks County, said the only offer of a deal to Lyons was life in prison.

"This is one of the most egregious cases we have seen in Grand Forks County," she said after the hearing Thursday.

Larson said Lyons' sexual assaults on the girl continued until she reported them to a friend's mother last summer and then talked to police.

Lyons admitted to the girl's accusations at his arrest in August, investigators said. He's been in the Grand Forks County jail since under $250,000 bond.

In providing the "factual basis," for the prosecution Thursday to Judge Clapp, Larson said Lyons admitted that from mid-2007 until last summer he regularly committed several kinds of sexual assault on the girl.

Clapp warned Lyons his open guilty plea to the charge means he could get up to the maximum sentence which would be life in prison with no chance of parole for 30 years.

Lyons also pleaded guilty to a lesser felony charge of child neglect or abuse.

Lyons' defense attorney, Clint Morgenstern, said he would have testimony at the sentencing hearing that would involve evaluations from experts.

Call Lee at (701) 780-1237, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1237 or send email to