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Charges: Twin Cities photographer raped 3 women over period of years

The 28-year-old has also been accused of false imprisonment and domestic assault.
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Den Zell Gilliard

A Twin Cities photographer has been charged with raping three women over a period of several years, as well as the false imprisonment and blackmail of one of them.

A new complaint against Den Zell Gilliard, 28, of Minneapolis, charged him with two counts of 1st-degree and one count of 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct, as well as the false imprisonment and domestic abuse of a woman between April 2016 and July 2017.

It comes after he was issued charges in two previous rape cases, which saw two women tell police they were raped between late 2018 and early 2019.

The victims said Gilliard took nude pictures of the women and used them as blackmail, and shared some on the internet.

The latest victim to come forward told police she'd met Gilliard in spring 2016 when he contacted her saying he was interested in photographing her for her website.

They eventually started a relationship, but the victim says Gilliard pressured her for sex "early on" despite her "verbal pleadings not to have sex."

"At one point, Defendant used a 35mm camera to take nude photographs of Victim without Victim’s consent and eventually used the photographs to 'intimidate and blackmail' Victim," the complaint says.

His behavior allegedly became increasingly aggressive over the course of 2016, at one point throwing a "heavy cocktail glass" at the victim, and became increasingly "chaotic and violent" towards her around Christmas, including destroying her personal property.

He allegedly subjected her to a violent rape in February 2017, with the victim telling police he raped her between 10-20 times over the 18-month period.

His alleged acts of physical violence include punching the victim, leaving her with a black eye, striking her with a leather belt, and using it to strangle her.

He's also accused of removing the door handles in his home so she couldn't leave without his say-so, and left her locked in the house when she broke up with him in June 2017.

On the day after he broke up with her, Gilliard "popped up" in the back seat of the victim's car as she drove to work, after hiding underneath a pile of clothes.

He assaulted on a few more occasions after this, before stopping in early July 2017.

If you're experiencing domestic violence, you can find a list of local resources and services here. You can also call the Minnesota Day One Crisis hotline at 1-866-223-1111.

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