Shortly after his 2013 release from prison for kidnapping and domestic assault, Joseph Thomas Hawkinson became a new man.

Shortly after his 2013 release from prison for kidnapping and domestic assault, Joseph Thomas Hawkinson became a new man.

He assumed a new identity, Wesley Scoggins, the Pioneer Press ( ) reported. He created a Facebook page and a LinkedIn profile. He landed a job at a small company called Srills Products, which now makes insecticides and herbicides in rural southern Dakota County.

Along the way, he duped those closest to him, including a new girlfriend and co-workers who knew him as "Wes."

But the ruse came to an abrupt end Feb. 13, when members of the U.S. Marshals Service North Star Fugitive Task Force and the Minnesota Department of Corrections Fugitive Apprehension Unit rushed into his workplace in Vermillion Township and arrested him at gunpoint. A loaded 9 mm semiautomatic pistol was in his hip holster, underneath his shirt.

Hawkinson "looked surprised and embarrassed," said Jeremy Rounsville, the owner and president of Srills Products who was next to Hawkinson at the time of the arrest and was also ordered to put his hands up.

"He put his hands up . and put his head down," Rounsville said.

Hawkinson, 29, had been a fugitive since March 2014, when he skipped a scheduled meeting with his parole officer and the state Department of Corrections issued a warrant for his arrest.

Police in Crystal, where Hawkinson had been living, learned he was no longer there; he was charged in Hennepin County with failure to register as a predatory offender.

Now, Hawkinson has been charged with two felonies in Dakota County District Court — one for the failure to register and another for possessing a firearm as an ineligible person. He's also charged with misdemeanor identity theft for assuming the name of Wesley Scoggins, who is an actual person who lives in St. Paul. Hawkinson has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is awaiting a May 1 court date. He remains in the Dakota County Jail in lieu of $80,000 bail.

"This was a pretty sophisticated plan on his part," said Tim Leslie, Dakota County sheriff. "And he was right here in our backyard."

Chris Clifford, supervisory deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service in Minneapolis, said Hawkinson managed to stay on the lam by living a regular working-man's life and keeping out of trouble.

"Most of the time, criminals go out and continue to keep on committing crimes to support their life while they're on the run," Clifford said. "It is very unusual for them to actually get a job and hold down a job for quite a few years and actually start up a new relationship to fit back into society. I could probably only name a handful of times that they've actually done that — and we arrest about 500 people a year in the district."

In September 2009, a 21-year-old Hawkinson assaulted his 19-year-old girlfriend by dragging her by her ankles down his basement stairs and choking her until she lost consciousness, according to court documents. He also pushed her head into a wall, put a gun to her head and threatened to kill her.

Two days later, he was arrested after breaking into the girlfriend's house in Golden Valley. Tucked into his pants was a .45-caliber handgun that had seven rounds in the eight-round magazine — and one round in the chamber.

Golden Valley police Sgt. Dave Kuhnly was a patrol officer at the time and the first one on the scene. He spotted Hawkinson in the driveway and held him at gunpoint until backup arrived. Recovered from the trunk of Hawkinson's car were a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol, two fully loaded magazines with hollow-point rounds and nearly 2 ounces of marijuana.

"There's no question in my mind that he was there to kill her," Kuhnly said this month. "It's one of those deals where, honestly, it's by the grace of God that she's alive. It was a domestic-abuse situation at the very extreme."

Hawkinson was convicted of kidnapping, domestic assault, burglary and second-degree assault. He was sentenced to 5 years and 9 months in prison but was released in July 2013.

About a year later, Rounsville met Hawkinson through a friend of a friend and offered him an entry-level job.

"I saw that he had some skills," said Rounsville, who started Srills Products 12 years ago in a former veterinary building in Brooklyn Center. "He worked up to pretty much be my assistant, my vice president."

Reflecting this month on his relationship with Hawkinson, Rounsville described him as "laid back, calm" and not at all suspicious. Rounsville even agreed to let Hawkinson live in an apartment in the company's Brooklyn Center building.
"I would call him a good guy," said Rounsville, 35. "You'd never question it, believe me."

It was that good-guy charm that helped persuade Gladys Rojas to start dating Hawkinson in 2015 after meeting him through an online dating site. On Facebook, they posted pictures of their dates — a train ride, a cooking class, a trip to a pumpkin patch — and expressed their love for each other.

"We were friends kind of at the beginning and he wanted a relationship," Rojas, 27, said recently. "So I gave it a shot."

Around Christmas 2015, he gave her a promise ring. They began living together in 2016 (investigators have conflicting information about where), eventually settling into a home they rented about a mile from Srills' new location in Dakota County.
Hawkinson developed a bond with Rojas' young son. He dropped him off at school most mornings and took care of him after school.

"They were close," Rojas said. "My son doesn't really understand much of what is going right now."

Rojas and Rounsville told investigators they knew nothing about Hawkinson's criminal past, and nothing has been found to contradict their stories.
Rojas said she has since broken up with Hawkinson.

Rounsville said Hawkinson called him and apologized.

"At first, I was mad . we've been through a lot over the last 2½ years," Rounsville said. "It's a really difficult situation when you know someone that duped you for that long, but then grew to be your friend at the same time. You have to try to think of it like, 'What is more important?' Now, since then, I've looked into the charges that he had before and I have a hard time realizing, putting two and two together that he did something like that. He just never seemed like that type of guy."

Rounsville said he is embarrassed that he let himself be deceived.

"Wouldn't you be?" he asked.

In the end, Facebook was Hawkinson's undoing.

Investigators from the Minnesota Department of Corrections received a tip that Hawkinson was using the Wesley Scoggins alias. A quick search on Facebook showed a Wesley Scoggins page with pictures that matched Hawkinson's appearance.

After arresting Hawkinson, detectives with the Dakota County sheriff's office and a deputy assigned to the fugitive task force searched his house in Marshan Township, a quiet farming town of about 1,100 residents. In a bedroom, they found a shotgun, boxes of ammunition and a Social Security card with the name "Wesley Scoggins," according to a criminal complaint.

During questioning, Hawkinson came clean, sort of. He told investigators his real name, but said he made up the fake name. That was a lie, investigators say, as the number on the Social Security card matched that of the real Wesley Scoggins. An investigator reached out to Scoggins, who said his card had been stolen.

Scoggins, 28, told the Pioneer Press that he has "absolutely no idea" who Hawkinson is and "was floored" when an investigator told him a fugitive had his Social Security card.

"I'm a family man," he said, adding he is engaged to his girlfriend and they are raising their 3-year-old son. "I'm the furthest thing from a criminal."

He said he's a private person, even going so far as to purposely stay off Facebook and other social media sites.

"I don't do social media," Scoggins said. "It gets people in trouble."

Sitting in jail last week, Hawkinson said in an interview with the Pioneer Press that he decided to run in 2014 because he had cut his hand while laying carpet, was taking painkillers and knew he'd fail a drug test when he met with his parole officer.

"Honestly, when I first went on the run, I wasn't expecting to be around much," he said. "I was going to disappear and most likely kill myself. I don't know if it was painkillers or stress, but everything was too much."

Instead, he shut out his family members and friends — and vanished.

"I was already on the run, so the only way to survive was to just kind of to start over," he said.

Hawkinson believes he was able to stay undetected by hiding in plain sight.
"They expect you to run as far away as you can and hide," he said. "As a family, we'd go out to eat on a Friday night for pizza or for an all-you-can-eat fish fry, or whatever."

He said no one asked, so he didn't tell.

"I didn't want to put someone in the spot where they'd have to turn me in or not, and then they'd be committing a crime, too," he said.

He realizes that Facebook was the beginning of the end.

"It was a tough spot because I kind of needed something like that for work stuff," he said. "It's kind of unusual if you don't have that for work."

His most serious charge of illegally possessing a firearm carries a maximum 15-year jail sentence and/or a $30,000 fine.

Hawkinson's advice to anyone tempted to run is not to. Instead, he says, get a good attorney and fight it out.

"It seems OK running," Hawkinson said. "Until you finally get your life together and you get the life that you always dreamed of . and then they come busting into your work."