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Man linked to violent rape through chewing tobacco pleads guilty

Crime Watch

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Chet K. Neilson walks into a Teton County Courtroom to plead guilty Tuesday. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

DRIGGS — A St. Anthony man accused of a violent rape in Teton County two years ago pleaded guilty Tuesday.

Chet K. Neilson, 31, was arrested just over three weeks ago, and on Tuesday he pleaded guilty to felony rape during his arraignment. He admitted guilt as part of a plea agreement reached during a mitigation hearing on Sept. 5. As part of the agreement, Teton County Prosecutor Billie Siddoway dropped a felony battery charge and felony enhancement of infliction of great bodily injury.

Other than a few soft-spoken responses to the judge, Neilson was mostly silent during the hearing. He did offer an admission, however.

“I did forcefully hold her down and had unconsensual (sic) sex with her,” Neilson told Judge Steven Boyce in court.

Court documents obtained by EastIdahoNews.com show Neilson raped a woman in the early hours of Aug. 4, 2017, as she walked in the Victor City park after attending Music on Main. The victim did not know who her attacker was but described him to detectives as a Caucasian male in his mid-20s to mid-30s wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, had no facial hair and had a “buzz cut.”

RELATED: How used chewing tobacco linked a man to a violent rape

Chet K. Neilson walks into a Teton County Courtroom on Tuesday. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

Evidence from the sexual assault exam was sent to the Idaho State Police Forensic Lab, and investigators obtained multiple samples of the suspect’s sperm on parts of her body and a NuvaRing, a birth control device worn in a woman’s vagina.

Two years later, on Aug. 17, Teton County Sheriff Detective Sgt. Andrew Foster received a lead identifying Neilson as a possible suspect. Court documents do not indicate what that lead was.

Around 6 a.m. on Aug. 20, Foster, along with Idaho State Police and the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, began a surveillance operation to collect a DNA sample from Neilson. Investigators obtained used chewing tobacco spit from Neilson’s mouth and sent that sample to the ISP lab in Boise for testing.

“The sperm cell sample from the sex assault kit matched the DNA sample obtained from Neilson. This DNA profile is at least 163 octillion times more likely to be seen if Chet Neilson is the source than if an unrelated individual randomly selected from the general population is the source,” court documents state.

RELATED: Man charged with violently raping woman in park being held on $250,000 bond

Deputies arrested Neilson on Aug. 23 at his job in Teton County and took him to the Madison County Jail, which houses inmates for Teton County.

Rape in Idaho holds a minimum sentence of one year, but Neilson could spend up to life in prison. The plea agreement stipulates both the defense and prosecution are free to argue on sentencing.

Siddoway, the prosecutor, was not available for comment.

Neilson will likely have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

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