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A Mills man faces charges alleging he used a knife to threaten a 15-year-old family member for being gay.

Prosecutors allege Manuel T. Runion held the teenager down and put a knife to his throat this fall.

Runion has been charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor in the case. When Runion attempted to enter guilty pleas to a felony and a misdemeanor on Thursday, Natrona County District Court Judge Catherine Wilking said she could not accept his pleas because Runion said he did not remember the alleged assault.

The case came to light on Nov. 21 when the child told a school resource officer that he had been assaulted by a family member the night before, according to court documents. The child told an investigating officer that Runion had been drinking when he held the boy down and slapped him in the face with a knife.

Runion then held the knife to the child’s throat and told the boy that he would slit his throat because of his sexuality, according to the documents. The boy said that Runion called him a homophobic slur.

A female family member then came into the room and stopped the altercation, court documents allege. Runion is alleged to have choked her during the struggle.

Police searched the house and found a bloodstained pillow, according to the documents. Runion had a knife in his pocket at the time he was brought in for questioning.

The woman corroborated the boy’s story in an interview with investigators, according to court documents.

In a police interview, Runion said he was unable to remember much of what had occurred that night. He said he remembered a fight involving the two alleged victims, but did not specify the reason for the fight or if a knife was involved, according to the documents.

In court on Thursday, Runion tried to enter guilty pleas to child abuse and domestic battery as part of a plea deal. When Wilking asked him about the events of the night in order to determine his guilt, Runion said he could not remember much of what happened because he was “highly intoxicated.”

Runion’s attorney attempted to walk him through the course of events and Runion said he believed the boy’s account.

This was not substantive enough for the judge or prosecution, however. Wilking said the defendant could consider entering a plea of no contest.

“Given the seriousness of the charges here, ‘I think that happened,’ or ‘That probably happened’, is not sufficient,” the judge said.

Runion faces charges of aggravated assault and battery, child abuse and strangulation of a household member. He is also facing a misdemeanor domestic battery charge.

Runion remained free on bond Thursday morning.

Follow crime reporter Shane Sanderson on Twitter @shanersanderson


Crime and Courts Reporter

Shane Sanderson is a Star-Tribune reporter who primarily covers criminal justice. Sanderson is a proud University of Missouri graduate. Lately, he’s been reading Cormac McCarthy and cooking Italian food. He writes about his own life in his free time.

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