Family apologizes after sexual abuse arrest

Date: 2010-03-24
Source: sltrib.com

Crime» Kennard, founder of children's charity, held without bail, ordered to hire attorney .

By Christopher Smart

Heber City » Minutes after a judge ordered 68-year-old Village of Hope co-founder Lon Harvey Kennard held without bail on charges that he sexually abused two of his adopted daughters Wednesday, his family issued a public apology.

Verl Kennard, one of Kennard's six biological children, provided a prepared statement outside the courtroom and said the family was badly shaken but holding together.

"We want him to pay for what he's done," Verl Kennard said of his father. "And we want him to get help."

The statement reads: "The recent arrest of Lon Harvey Kennard, Sr., who in the past has been a respected citizen, is devastating. Mr. Kennard's family is supporting the investigation and stands united together through this extremely difficult time. The family apologizes to all the good people, friends, and associates, who along with the family have had their trust betrayed by Lon Senior's alleged deviant actions and secret life. They request that the media allow them the privacy they need to put their lives back together."

Deputy Wasatch County Attorney Tricia Lake told 4th District Judge Derek Pullan that Kennard, who has a home in Ethiopia, should remain in the Wasatch County Jail.

"Because of the pervasiveness, length of time and multiple victims, the defendant should remain confined until trial," she said.

Pullan ruled the 30-year Heber City resident, who with his wife created an Ethiopian orphanage and adopted six Ethiopian children, was a flight risk and also posed a risk to his alleged victims.

Kennard is charged with 25 counts of first-degree felony aggravated sexual abuse of a child, 21 counts of second-degree felony sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of witness tampering. According to court documents, the abuse was ongoing between 1995 and 2002. During that time frame, Kennard served as a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bishop.

Kennard on Wednesday told the court he had not retained an attorney because it was too expensive. But Pullan said Kennard did not qualify for a state-appointed counsel, citing his ownership of a house valued at $500,000.

Pullan ordered Kennard to hire an attorney, but appointed public defender Dana Facemyer to represent him during Wednesday's hearing.

In the early 1990s, Kennard and his wife, DeAnna, adopted six Ethiopian children. They already had six biological children. All 12 are now adults. Following the adoptions, the Kennards launched Village of Hope Ethiopia in a small area called Kersa Illala, 200 miles south of Addis Ababa.

Village of Hope brought fresh water and health care to the area and established an orphanage. In April 2009, The Salt Lake Tribune wrote a story featuring the endeavor.

But on March 6 one of Kennard's adoptive daughters called authorities to report that she and a sister were victims of sexual abuse "many times over many years," according to a probable cause statement from the Wasatch County Sheriff's Office.

An adoptive son found nude pictures and videos on Kennard's computer and made copies, the statement said. On March 7, according to the statement, 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 girl.

Other family members told investigators they, too, had been abused by Kennard, according to the probable cause statement. No charges have been filed in connection with those allegations.

csmart@sltrib.com

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