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Trial set for Bismarck man already in prison for child sex crime

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A Bismarck man in prison for raping a young girl and giving her a venereal disease has pleaded not guilty to two alleged sex crimes that authorities say took place several years ago.

Paxton Heywood, 23, entered the pleas by video from the North Dakota State Penitentiary. He is accused of raping and inappropriately touching a young girl in 2013 “so many times we can’t account for them,” Assistant Burleigh County State’s Attorney Anna Argenti said during a Tuesday court hearing. The child during interviews provided a considerable amount of information that would prove Heywood assaulted her, Argenti said.

Defense attorney Josh Weatherspoon argued that the case was “deeply speculative” because it relied on the memory of a child who was quite young at the time of the alleged incidents. He asked South Central District Judge Pamela Nesvig to dismiss the charges.

Nesvig said the child provided details about the alleged acts that were specific -- “not just that (Heywood) was there and something happened.” She scheduled a two-day trial starting Feb. 1, 2022.

Heywood is charged with two counts of gross sexual imposition, felonies that could tack 20 years onto his current prison sentence. The investigation started in October 2020. The child told her mother about the alleged incidents and the mother contacted police, according to an affidavit.

A jury in May found Heywood guilty of raping a young girl in a separate case. He was charged in 2019 after an adult family member reported the child's venereal disease diagnosis to police. Nesvig in September sentenced Heywood to 10 years in prison and ordered that he spend five years on supervised probation after his release. He must also register as a sex offender.

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com

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