Bail denied for Lon Kennard Sr., founder of Heber charity

Date: 2010-03-24

By Geoff Liesik

HEBER CITY — Fourth District Court Judge Derek Pullan denied bail Wednesday to Lon Harvey Kennard Sr., the founder of a nonprofit organization for children who now faces 47 felony charges related to child sex abuse.

Kennard, 68, is charged with 24 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony; 21 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony; one count of forcible sodomy, a second-degree felony; and one count of witness tampering, a third-degree felony.

In court documents, Kennard is accused of sexually abusing six female relatives and a seventh teenage girl who is not a relative. He is also accused of producing videos that documented some of the alleged abuse.

Prosecutors on Wednesday asked Pullan to set bail at $1 million cash only, while Kennard's court-appointed attorney asked that bail be set at $25,000 cash or bond.

"I believe that Mr. Kennard is likely to flee and poses additional danger to his victims," Pullan said after hearing from both attorneys.

The judge then ordered that Kennard be held without bail.

The allegations against Kennard came to light on March 6, when a female relative contacted a Wasatch County sheriff's deputy to ask if Kennard was a suspect in a child sex abuse investigation. The woman told the deputy that Kennard's son had shown her videos of Kennard engaging in sexual contact with an underage girl. The son told detectives he had found the videos on an external computer hard drive that his father kept in his locked home office.

Detectives interviewed six women related to Kennard and each described "individual, personalized accounts of being sexually abused" by Kennard, according to court records. Investigators also believe Kennard sexually abused a seventh victim, who is not related to him, and made videos of the abuse. Court records say the girl is from Ethiopia and is 17 or 18 years old.

The sexual abuse outlined in court records allegedly began in 1995, around the time Kennard was serving as bishop of his LDS Church ward and one year after he and his wife founded Village of Hope. The nonprofit organization provides "development programs for destitute villages" in Mexico, Central America, Ethiopia and the Caribbean.

Kennard's family sent a brief written statement to the Deseret News following Wednesday's court appearance. In the statement, family members called Kennard's arrest "devastating" and said they support the sheriff's office investigation.

"The family apologizes to all the good people, friends and associates, who along with the family have had their trust betrayed by Lon Sr.'s alleged deviant actions and secret life," the statement reads. "They request that the media allow them the privacy they need to put their lives back together."

Kennard, a successful entrepreneur, has filed a declaration of indigency and asked for a public defender. Pullan agreed to temporarily appoint a lawyer to represent Kennard, but said Kennard will be required to reimburse the state for attorney's fees. The judge also said he doubts Kennard is truly indigent because he has a "$500,000 home."

Kennard is scheduled to return to court April 5 for a day-long preliminary hearing.

Contributing: Laurie Wynn, Wasatch Wave

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