Cloquet man accused of luring teenager to Minnesota
Aaron Mathew Vennerstrom allegedly met the 16-year-old in an online chat forum and told her he planned to marry her when she arrived.
A Cloquet man was arrested Friday, May 7, and accused of luring a teenager to Cloquet from California.
Aaron Mathew Vennerstrom, 38, was charged with causing a child running away from home, a felony, and abduction for the purpose of marrying a person under 18, a gross misdemeanor.
According to the complaint, Cloquet Police Officers responded to a call on Highway 61 in Esko and spoke with Vennerstrom’s wife. She told police that Vennerstrom was in the front seat and the 16-year-old victim was in the back seat. Vennerstrom and his wife denied having any prior knowledge of the victim, the complaint said.
Through the investigation, officers learned the victim was a missing juvenile from San Bernardino, California. They also learned authorities in California had obtained email correspondence between the victim and Vennerstrom prior to May 7, according to the complaint.
In a statement provided to law enforcement, the victim said she came to Minnesota by bus to meet Vennerstrom, who she had begun talking with in March. The pair met in an online chat forum, the complaint said, and Vennerstrom offered to help get her out of her family situation in California and asked her to come to Cloquet and move in with him. The victim said they called each other boyfriend and girlfriend in the chat forum and planned to have sex once she arrived in Minnesota.
Once in Minnesota, the victim said Vennerstrom gave her his wife’s phone number and story to relate to his wife. The victim said she did not know Vennerstrom was married until he gave her his wife’s number and the story, according to the complaint.
Vennerstrom’s wife told law enforcement she got a strange call from a female. The person told her she needed help and was in Duluth with nowhere to go. Vennerstrom convinced his wife to drive to Duluth to pick up the victim from the bus station, the complaint said. His wife said she started to feel weird about the situation, so she drove them to her workplace and went inside to speak with a coworker.
Vennerstrom’s wife and the coworker decided to call law enforcement.
In a statement provided to police, Vennerstrom said he had communicated with the victim online and it started out of boredom, the complaint said. Vennerstrom also said he knew the victim’s age and that she was a runaway.
Vennerstrom admitted the conversations with the victim online were sexual. He also admitted to telling the victim he loved her and he made romantic plans with her in addition to marriage.
If convicted on the felony charge, Vennerstrom faces up to four years in prison, an $8,000 fine or both.