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Capture of Iowa sex suspect has bizarre twist

SHARE Capture of Iowa sex suspect has bizarre twist
Russell Blessman

Russell Blessman

A man wanted in Iowa for investigation of sexual assault of an 8-year-old girl was arrested recently in Heber City. Investigators are now worried about what the man was doing while he was in Utah. And they say an even more bizarre twist to the story is how he came to Utah.

Russell Eugene Blessman, 51, was arrested Wednesday at a Heber City motel. Blessman had two arrest warrants out of Iowa, including one for sexual assault of an 8-year-old girl. He is believed to have fled the state in June to avoid prosecution.

The Joint Criminal Apprehension Team and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force made the arrest after receiving a tip. Blessman was believed to have come to Utah with four to six guns but was arrested without incident, said Ken Wallentine, chief of law enforcement at the Utah Attorney General's Office.

Several computers and computer storage devices were found in the motel room. But even more disturbing, Wallentine said, a motel clerk told ICAC agents that he had seen several children going in and out of the room the past few weeks.

ICAC agents have interviewed Blessman, who was being held in the Salt Lake County Jail Friday on $100,000 bail. He was only being held on his Iowa warrants Friday, but Wallentine said he was "virtually certain" additional child exploitation charges for child pornography charges on his computers would be filed soon.

Investigators think they know the identities of the juveniles seen going into Blessman's room but had not interviewed them as of Friday night. Now, they're asking for anyone who has had contact with Blessman, or any parents who think their children have had contact with him, to call the AG's office at 281-1200.

Detectives say Blessman sticks out in a crowd. He is more than 6 feet tall and weighs between 320 and 370 pounds, according to law enforcers. He has dyed jet-black hair, a bushy black beard and glasses.

How Blessman came to Utah is another bizarre story.

While in Iowa, Wallentine said, Blessman paid someone a "substantial amount of money" to convert him into a Cherokee Indian. He then encouraged Blessman to go to Utah to hide out with a group near Green River that claims to be an Indian tribe.

Blessman traveled to Utah approximately four months ago and actually lived in a cave for some time, Wallentine said. He claims he was ordained a tribal police officer for the group.

Because of his alleged dual Indian background, Blessman tried telling state officials they had no authority to arrest him, Wallentine said.

"First off, you can't buy your way into an Indian tribe. And even if you could, you still can't commit a crime," Wallentine said. "I tried to help him understand he wasn't really (an Indian)." As for the Utah group, Wallentine said even though they are a self-proclaimed tribe, they are not recognized by any state, federal or even tribal organization.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com