A Lake County man accused of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl during a visit to her home in Butte in October pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent on Wednesday.
Donald Dale Gingras, 60, of St. Ignatius, was arrested and taken to the Butte-Silver Bow jail on Dec. 24 following an investigation into the girl’s accusations, which she shared with her grandmother, a teacher and recounted in a forensic interview.
District Judge Robert Whelan accepted Gingras’ plea Wednesday and ordered him returned to jail with bail set at $100,000. If convicted, he could be sentenced up to life in prison or 100 years.
Gingras has a lengthy criminal record, including a conviction for attempted deliberate homicide, and served more than 20 years in prison before last being paroled in 2014.
Prosecutors say Gingras was living in St. Ignatius, 75 miles south of Kalispell, when he visited the girl’s grandmother in Butte on Oct. 25. The grandmother said he was a family friend so she let him sleep on the couch that night, with the girl in another room.
A few days after his visit, the 6-year-old girl told her grandmother that her private parts hurt and that Gingras had “stabbed” her there with his finger. The grandmother went to the police with that information and details of other acts.
The girl said Gingras told her not to say anything but she later told her grandma everything and also told a teacher, prosecutors say.
A Butte detective went to Polson on Nov. 9 to speak to Gingras with his probation officer present, prosecutors say. Gingras said that during the night in Butte, he awoke to find the girl on top of him “trying to kiss him like a woman would kiss a man and was naked.”
Gingras denied all of the acts alleged by the girl and said he got out of the house as soon as possible the next morning because he was uncomfortable with the situation. But he was ultimately arrested and charged.
Gingras was convicted of attempted deliberate homicide in 1991 after a stabbing in a Kalispell bar. He escaped from jail while awaiting sentencing but was arrested several weeks later at a trailer park in Washington state, according to newspaper accounts.
He was sentenced to 85 years in prison, in part because he was a persistent felony offender, according to the Montana Department of Corrections.
On appeal, he was resentenced in 2011 to 75 years but was given credit for time already served and was paroled from Montana State Prison the next year. He was returned to prison in 2013 after violating parole but was paroled again in 2014.
In another case Wednesday, Whelan set a new sentencing date of March 13 for Matthew Joseph Rodriguez, who previously pleaded guilty to felony sexual assault for allegedly having sex with a 6-year-old girl in Butte on at least three occasions in 2015.
Rodriguez pleaded guilty in October but didn’t show for a court hearing Dec. 19. A bench warrant was issued and he was arrested four days later in Great Falls, where he picked up additional charges for allegedly assaulting officers and trying to run from them.