Children's charity co-founder charged with child sex abuse

Date: 2010-03-23

Crime » Adoptive daughter calls Wasatch County sheriff

By Christopher Smart

A Wasatch County man known for co-founding the Village of Hope to aid Ethiopian orphans and adopting Ethiopian children has been charged with multiple counts of child sex abuse and child pornography.

Charges filed in Heber City's 4th District Court allege Lon Harvey Kennard Sr., 68, sexually abused two of his adoptive daughters who are now adults.

Kennard faces 24 first-degree felony counts of aggravated sex abuse of a child, 21 second-degree felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of witness tampering, said Wasatch County Attorney Scott Sweat.

Other family members told Wasatch County sheriff investigators they also were abused by Kennard, according to a probable cause statement. No charges have been filed in connection with those statements.

Kennard, who turned himself in March 17, is being held in the Wasatch County Jail without bail.

In the early 1990s, Kennard and his wife, DeAnna, adopted six children from Ethiopia. The couple also have six biological children. All of their children are now adults.

The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not name victims of sex abuse.

According to charging documents, the alleged sexual abuse was ongoing from 1995 to 2002.

One of Kennard's adoptive daughters called the Wasatch County Sheriff's Office on March 6 and said she and a sister from Ethiopia were victims of sex abuse "many times over the years," the probable cause statement said.

An adult adoptive son of the Kennards found nude pictures and videos on Kennard's computer, downloaded copies and informed his sisters of the material, according to the court filing.

On March 7, authorities were provided with 31 photographs and videos that investigators allege constitute child pornography involving one of the daughters, beginning at age 14, and another 14-year-old female. At least one of those videos includes a sex act, according to a description in the probable cause statement.

Over the past decade, the Kennards established Village of Hope, an orphanage in Kersa Illala, 200 miles south of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Their non-profit organization was instrumental in bringing clean water and health care to the impoverished village.

Kennard and his orphanage were featured in a 2009 story in The Salt Lake Tribune .

The effort to aid Kersa Illala came after the adoptions, recalled DeAnna Kennard, because she and her husband wanted to make a difference. In the story, she recounted the arrival of the children in Heber after life in their poor village.

"Every day was Christmas for them," she said.

Attempts to reach DeAnna Kennard on Tuesday were unsuccessful. Kennard's Village of Hope partner, Paul Morrell, also could not be reached for immediate comment.


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