Skip to main content

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.
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.

Next Up

first snow

Will narrow band of 6+ inches of snow hit Twin Cities Tuesday?

The NWS says a band of 6+ inches is looking likely. It's now a matter of where.


Siblings, ages 19 and 14, killed in crash on icy MN highway

The crash happened around 1:15 a.m. Saturday in Carlton County.

Nicholas Kraus

Man sentenced for fatally striking woman during Uptown protest

Nicholas Kraus, 36, of St. Paul drove into a protest in Uptown last year, killing Deona Marie Knajdek.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Fleeing suspect crashes into vehicle in Woodbury, 2 injured

The crash occurred Friday afternoon after a pursuit with Woodbury police.

Screen Shot 2022-11-26 at 2.34.44 PM

Yes, that's MN native Jenny Taft in a State Farm commercial

Jenny Taft got her broadcasting career started in Minneapolis in 2011.

crime scene tape - police tape

23-year-old woman critical after shooting in Plymouth

A 23-year-old woman was shot Friday night in Plymouth.

white Christmas

2 MN towns among most 'magical' winter locations in the country

The list was compiled by Trips Discover and published earlier this month.

Screen Shot 2022-11-26 at 8.27.12 AM

St. Olaf football player charged after fatal crash in Chicago

The 18-year-old is accused of speeding and going the wrong way when he crashed into a vehicle that may have been attempting to flee police.

Screen Shot 2022-11-26 at 7.41.18 AM

Woman 34 weeks pregnant injured by drunk driver in Cottage Grove

The 49-year-old suspected of DUI was booked into jail around 1:30 a.m. Saturday.


2 dead, 5 injured in Thanksgiving Day crash near Alexandria

The crash involved two people from Alexandria and five from Bloomington.

Screen Shot 2022-11-25 at 6.44.11 PM

Lengthy standoff in Prior Lake ends late Friday night

The suspect allegedly assaulted an officer outside Kwik Trip, fled and broke into a home.

snow - 12-10-21 - Joe Nelson - 5

Accumulating snow possible in Twin Cities next week

The storm system could arrive in the Tuesday-Wednesday timeframe.


Charges: Renaissance Festival director raped photographer

The 59 year old plays the "Rat Catcher" at the annual event.

Charges: Twin Cities McDonald's manager raped employee, 14

The 24-year-old Maple Grove manager has been charged with 5 crimes.

Charges: Man raped 2 women while out on bail for attempted rape

The attacks happened a month apart in south Minneapolis.

Charges: Photographer raped woman during hotel shoot

A 32-year-old man from Farmington is accused of sexual assault.

Charges: Valleyfair worker was raped outside dorm building

The accused attacker was serving probation for raping a 14-year-old girl.

President Pimpin Austin

Charges: Man assaulted, raped woman he'd just met inside her car

The 28-year-old from St. Paul has been charged with 1st-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Gideon Erhabor

Ex-Bethel football player charged with raping 3 students

The 21-year-old is accused of the crimes dating back to fall 2018.

Charges: Masked man who raped teen was her mom's boyfriend

The 26 year old has been charged with 1st-degree criminal sexual conduct.