CARLTON, Minn. — A sex offender allegedly used a fan motor to bludgeon a security counselor before stomping on his head and bragging about the “unprovoked” attack, officials said Wednesday, May 3.
Nicolas Ladell Aron-Jones, 29, has a history as a combative client at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in Moose Lake, having been convicted of assaulting staff, making threats or damaging property on at least five prior occasions since 2015.
However, Monday’s alleged assault is believed to be one of the most serious in the facility’s 27-year history, leading to a traumatic brain injury that required the 53-year-old employee to be airlifted to an advanced care hospital.
“We are deeply disturbed by such a brutal, senseless attack,” Nancy Johnston, MSOP executive director, said in a statement. “I’m grateful to those who tried to intervene and protect our coworker. Our hearts are with him and his family, and we’ll be there to support him as he recovers.”
The employee was not identified in court documents, and a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which operates the program, said the agency is not able to offer any update on his condition due to data privacy requirements.
A criminal complaint states that the security officer was making his rounds when Aron-Jones approached him from behind and struck him with a heavy object, which was later determined to be the fan motor in a pillowcase. The employee fell to the ground and was unable to defend himself as Aron-Jones swung the weapon at his head and body several more times, the complaint states.
The defendant allegedly kicked and stomped on the counselor’s head eight times before being pushed away by other staff and sprayed with a chemical irritant. As he retreated to his room and was transported to another area of the facility, Aron-Jones allegedly yelled threats and made a series of comments, including: “His man saved his life because I was going to kill that (expletive).”
The complaint states that the staff member was flown to an unspecified hospital and diagnosed with a traumatic subarachnoid hematoma, along with other injuries, including a laceration to the eye.
According to documents, Aron-Jones was convicted of multiple sex crimes and violent offenses as a juvenile in the Twin Cities area. He has been in local jails, the state prison system and various treatment facilities since his teenage years, and he is currently under indefinite commitment to MSOP as a “sexually dangerous person.”
A 2015 commitment order indicates he was charged in juvenile court in 2009 with molesting 9- and 15-year-old boys, later pleading guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was ordered to undergo treatment and subsequently admitted to a count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for assaulting a female staff member at a group home.
As an adult, Aron-Jones was convicted of exposing himself to a developmentally disabled woman at a park, biting a correctional worker and violating predatory offender registration requirements.
In his time at Moose Lake, he has been found guilty of third-degree assault, two counts of fourth-degree assault, making terroristic threats and first-degree damage to property — all felonies.
Court documents indicate he has repeatedly threaten to kill staff members and has punched, bit and spit on employees in previous unprovoked attacks. In one case, a worker was briefly knocked unconscious by Aron-Jones and kicked several times while he was on the ground. In another, he reportedly grabbed a female worker while brandishing a sharpened plastic object and stating that he was “in prison for life and had nothing to lose.”
Aron-Jones received prison time for all five incidents at Moose Lake and has at times been moved to the custody of the Minnesota Department of Corrections. However, the sentences had little practical effect, as he remains subject to the civil commitment.
The sex offender program has been controversial for decades, allowing the state — with a judge’s approval — to hold offenders well after their criminal sentence is fulfilled. It is considered a treatment program, but very few clients have been successfully discharged back into the community, and many have spent decades locked up at the Moose Lake and St. Peter facilities.
Another serious attack happened at Moose Lake in 2019, when sex offender
George Mack Jr. used a razor blade to slash the throat of clinician Zachary Campbell.
Officials described that as “one of the most serious attacks” in the program’s history, and it resulted in Mack receiving the statutory maximum 20 years in prison for attempted murder.
Aron-Jones reportedly cited Mack by name while threatening to stab staff members just weeks afterward.
Human Services spokesman Christopher Sprung said the agency is conducting a review of Monday’s incident and offering counseling to employees. He indicated that there are hundreds of cameras across the campus and there is a “well-trained and equipped incident response team that can act quickly in emergency situations.”
Sprung said the facility has two behavioral units that allow for more intensive monitoring, but only on a short-term basis while staff works to get clients “back on track.” There are also single-room, high-security areas that can be used in the event of a security concern, though state law and rules limit their usage.
“Because MSOP is a treatment facility, not a prison, clients are not locked in their rooms, but have varying levels of liberty,” Sprung said. “The unit where clients live and their freedom to move about the campus are based on behavior. The program uses a multi-tier system to assign clients increasing levels of movement.”
He said the agency could not comment on Aron-Jones due to client privacy regulations, but added: “Safety for staff and clients is our top priority.”
Aron-Jones was arraigned Wednesday on charges of attempted second-degree murder and first-, second- and third-degree assault. He faces up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.
He is being held at the Carlton County Jail, with Judge Rebekka Stumme setting his next appearance for May 15.