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Minnesota man charged with placing secret camera in girls' bedroom

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GRANITE FALLS -- A 32-year-old Echo man has been charged with interference of privacy of a minor and criminal sexual conduct, accused of placing a secret camera in a room where two teenage girls were staying.

Jeffrey Thomas Mertens made his first appearance on the felony and gross misdemeanor charges July 5 in Yellow Medicine County District Court.

According to the criminal complaint on the charges, one of the girls told a Yellow Medicine County sheriff’s deputy she first noticed the camera in February.

She said she happened to sit on the floor of the room and saw something underneath her dresser.

Once she realized it appeared to be a camera, she followed the cord out of the room. It led to a TV screen in a different bedroom.

She and the other girl took photos of what they saw and left the home right away, calling for someone to pick them up.

Days later, the Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at Mertens’ home, where deputies allegedly found and seized what appeared to be an ice fishing camera installed underneath the dresser, as well as an ice fishing camera screen in another bedroom.

According to the criminal complaint, when a deputy powered on the screen from where it was situated, it showed a clear picture of the inside of the bedroom where the camera had been located.

Officers also seized four VHS tapes, a flip cell phone, and mail.

A sheriff’s deputy notified Mertens that a search warrant had been executed at his home. The next day, Mertens voluntarily came in for a law enforcement interview, with his parents present.

He allegedly told law enforcement he had set the camera up to keep an eye on the girls “because they are always texting and I don’t like it,” according to the criminal complaint.

He also denied touching either girl inappropriately.

One girl, in an interview with law enforcement, had described several incidents where Mertens had touched her over her clothes.

Mertens is not in custody, under the condition that he not have any contact with the two girls.

He’s scheduled to appear at another court hearing Aug. 22 in Yellow Medicine County.