'Periwinkle Perv' of south Minneapolis caught, charged with indecent exposure

After numerous reports involving the same car, police were able to track down Robert Stephenson, 31, using a GPS device.

After numerous reports involving the same car, police were able to track down Robert Stephenson, 31, using a GPS device. Getty Images/iStock Photo

The Periwinkle Perv has, at last, been caught.

The prolific serial flasher of south Minneapolis, believed to be behind dozens of indecent exposures over a span of 12 months, will finally face a small measure of justice for his unbroken streak of unsolicited public nudity. 

His name is Robert Stephenson, he's 31, he lives in Eagan, and though his criminal record displays a poor understanding of driving and parking laws -- 13 convictions dating back to 2005 -- he has never been charged with any crime not related to a vehicle.

Stephenson's vehicle was actually what allowed investigators to track him down. As City Pages reported in early August, numerous victims reported incidents involving a man driving a Chevy Spark, its color periwinkle blue -- hence the alliterative and chromatic nickname  -- which he often appeared next to, and would jump into as a getaway car.

Here's how one victim described her ordeal: 

"[She] saw the flasher when she was walking her puppy down 44th Street. The man was by his blue car, and she assumed he was texting... until she noticed that he was entirely naked. “I do a double take and am like, ‘No way, are you fucking kidding me?'” The woman tried to take down his license number, which was difficult because her puppy was distracted by another dog hanging out in one of the yards. The man took off in his car. Then, as she headed toward 43rd and Elliot, the man returned. There were people approaching down the street from her, and the man, after making eye contact with her, drove down Elliot and kept going. “That was creepy to me; that he followed me,” she says.

Women who'd been flashed in the neighborhoods around Lake Nokomis and Lake Harriet compared notes, eventually putting together a comprehensive crowd-sourced map of incidents around the city's lakes.

Of those, 14 reported episodes (those marked with an orange pinpoint in the above map), dating back to November of 2016, involved a naked man with a blue car. The most recent Periwinkle Perv sighting happened September 3, when a woman spotted a "naked man outside a blue Chevy in the alley," on the 4700 block of Oakland Avenue.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the City of Minneapolis Attorney's Office, Minneapolis Park Police were already onto him by that time. In late July, a park officer obtained an order allowing for a GPS tracking device to be placed on Stephenson's Chevy Spark to investigate an "indecent conduct and indecent exposure case."

At 3:00 a.m. on September 3, the GPS tracker indicated that Stephenson had entered Minneapolis. The park police officer then tailed the Chevy for a four-hour period, during which time he identified Stephenson as the driver. The car's route criscrossed areas where women had previously called in indecent exposures, though this time, "it did not appear the vehicle was making any deliveries or pickups," the complaint states.

Not until later: At 9:00 a.m., Lt. Mark Swanson received a call from a woman who said she had just seen a naked man exposing himself in the alley behind her house. Swanson cross-referenced the timing and location of her report against the GPS tracker. Bingo: "[Stephenson's] vehicle was in that exact location at that time."

For this incident, Stephenson faces one count of indecent exposure in a public place, a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of a 90-day sentence and/or a $1,000 fine.

Though Stephenson and his blue Spark are connected to many incidents, a spokesperson for the City of Minneapolis says the city attorney's office is currently "considering no other charges" against him. The city is asking for public input by way of "community impact statements," which allow people to submit how they "have been harmed by this person’s actions or similar behavior by others"; the statements can cover impacts felt "financially, emotionally, physically," and otherwise.

Click here to learn how to communicate your impact statement to the city, which is requesting that statements be submitted before Monday, November 20, when Stephenson is due for his first court appearance.