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West-central Minnesota physician now charged with 7 counts of criminal sexual conduct against 4 patients

Dr. Mark Eakes of Granite Falls now faces a total of seven felony charges of criminal sexual conduct for related to pelvic, rectal or breast exams on four patients from 2019 to 2021.

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GRANITE FALLS — A Granite Falls physician originally charged in March is now facing seven felony counts of criminal sexual conduct by falsely representing a medical purpose.

Dr. Mark Wendell Eakes, 58, is accused of performing unnecessary pelvic, rectal or breast examinations of four patients who saw him between October 2019 and September 2021 at Avera Granite Falls Health Center.

He appeared Monday in Yellow Medicine County District Court on the seven charges in the most recent criminal complaint, which was filed June 8.

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Mark Wendell Eakes
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Dr. Mark Eakes of Granite Falls is facing three felony charges of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly performing unnecessary pelvic exams on a patient in 2020 and 2021. He made his first court appearance March 21, and will next be in court June 13. In an agreement with the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, he is not practicing medicine while the charges are being resolved.

Four of the charges in the amended complaint are third-degree criminal sexual conduct, alleging sexual penetration, and three of them are fourth-degree counts that allege sexual contact.

The first criminal complaint was filed with the court in January, and Eakes was summoned to make his first court appearance in March. Since then, amended complaints have been filed four times. The first amended complaint removed one of the original three charges against one alleged victim, and subsequent amended complaints have added charges against three additional alleged victims.

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Eakes has remained free on his own recognizance with a number of conditions. They include having no contact with the alleged victims, remaining law-abiding and not possessing firearms or ammunition.

The Avera Health website has not listed Eakes on the staff since at least March, and he is currently not practicing medicine in the state. Eakes and the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice entered into a stipulation agreement in November 2021 that Eakes would cease practicing medicine until the board is able to resolve the allegations against him. The document is a public record.

According to the criminal complaint, a patient seeking a prescription for medical marijuana for pain management saw him in December 2020, June 2021 and September 2021. Pelvic and rectal exams were performed at the first two, and another pelvic exam at the last.

He is alleged to have touched her inappropriately during two of the exams, asking if she could feel what he was doing. He stopped when she said she was in pain.

He also talked to her about purchasing a “high-powered vibrator she would use to help her in the bedroom” and used her phone to search for a website that sold them.

In September 2021, the patient said Eakes seemed uninterested in what she was saying until she talked about wanting to lose weight.

She said that the doctor gave her his phone number and asked her to send him photos while she was in underwear or naked and to send her measurements. He told her she was not the only person sending him photos, according to the criminal complaint.

After the patient made a complaint to the Granite Falls Police Department, Police Chief Brian Struffert spoke with a neurologist with the University of Minnesota Community Neurological Advisory Committee to ask whether a pelvic exam would have been required at the visits.

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The neurologist said the patient had had the condition for which she was seeking treatment for 13 years, and ongoing care would involve imaging, not pelvic exams. Since she did not complain of new or worsening symptoms, the neurologist said pelvic exams would not be medically necessary unless the physician did not have access to her medical records. According to the complaint, clinic records indicated Eakes had reviewed her medical records before the first visit.
A different patient seeking a prescription for medical marijuana saw Eakes in July 2019, twice in June 2020 and a final appointment in July of 2020. In the complaint, she described conversations that she found uncomfortable or unprofessional — including him asking about a past sexual assault.

She said he stared intensely, which also made her uncomfortable. He provided his cell number and told her to call if she was struggling mentally, according to the complaint.

During one appointment, she said she expressed concern about weight loss and he suddenly grabbed and lifted her shirt, asking if her breast size had changed. She was not wearing a bra and this left her feeling "violated and offended," according to the complaint.

During the final appointment, she said he performed a pelvic exam that was unlike any other she had experienced in the past. There was no nurse in the room, and he looked in her eyes. She told police she felt like he was trying to act like a sexual partner and it made her feel "icky and wrong" and she never went back.

According to the criminal complaint, a third patient — who had had multiple appointments with him during a prior pregnancy and for medical care since that time — also described a pelvic exam she said was unlike any other she ever had. She said Eakes did not wear gloves and looked in her eyes during an October 2019 appointment to change her medication.

During a breast exam at the same appointment, she said she felt like she was being groped and no one else was present in the room.

She described a breast exam performed by Eakes one month before that as different than others in the past by other providers, including leaving her naked above the waist the entire time.

During a March 2021 wellness exam, she refused his request to conduct breast and pelvic exams. She said he asked uncomfortable questions about her sex life and talked to her about masturbation.

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She said he insisted on her putting his number into her cell phone contacts and watched to be sure she did, according to the complaint.

A fourth patient — who said Eakes had been her primary physician since about 2019 — was in the clinic in August 2021 to test for a possible infection. She had refused a pelvic exam, she said, mainly because there was no one else in the room to witness, according to the complaint.

She said he questioned her about sexual activity and this made her uncomfortable. He had begun a regular exam, checking her heart and lungs, before asking her to lie down.

She said he grabbed her genital area over her clothes, making her feel uncomfortable and awkward, according to the complaint. She said she didn't stop him because she didn't know what to do. She decided she was never going back.

An omnibus hearing in the case is scheduled Aug. 2 in front of Judge Thomas Van Hon. Trial dates are on the calendar in September.

Susan Lunneborg is the news editor of the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minnesota. A journalist for more than 25 years, she has worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in the Dakotas and Minnesota.
Lunneborg can be reached at: slunneborg@wctib.com or 320-214-4343.
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