Nels Jerry Peterson

Nels Jerry Peterson 

A Hamiton man with a history of sexually assaulting children was charged Monday with felony sexual assault involving an 11-year-old girl.

Nels Jerry Peterson, 66, allegedly sexually assaulted the girl last summer, according to a charging affidavit filed by Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright.

The affidavit said an investigation into the alleged assault began after the girl told her mother about it last February. A forensic interview occurred in March at Emma’s House.

The girl’s mother reported seeing a change in her daughter's behavior last summer, including sleeping on the floor of her parents' bedroom.

When confronted, Peterson initially told law enforcement officers he couldn’t remember and that the incident may be “blocked” in his memory, the affidavit said. He allegedly told investigators that “even if I did do something like that, I wouldn’t know if I did nor not.”

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But, the affidavit said as the interview progressed, Peterson said: “If (Youth) said I did I probably did.” When asked why, Peterson replied: "It might have been an urge, I don’t know.”

In May 2006, Peterson was convicted in Kitsap County, Washington, of communication with a minor for immoral purposes. He was sentenced to jail and required to register as a sexual offender. The affidavit said that case was originally charged as third-degree child molestation for sexually assaulting a girl between the ages of 8 and 14, and offering her money not to tell anyone.

The affidavit said that during the investigation in the Washington State case, three teens told authorities Peterson had sexually abused them as well.

Ravalli County Justice Jim Bailey set bail at $25,000.