was a former Mormon bishop in Utah; in 2011, pleaded guilty to three felony counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child; sentenced in November 2011 to three consecutive terms of five years to life in the Utah State Prison

Case Summary

This case arose in Utah in about 2009. The sexual abuse occurred between 1995 and 2002.

Kennard’s victims were among six children he and his wife adopted from Ethiopia, where the couple helped establish an orphanage. They started their nonprofit in 1994.

Kennard was held without bail on charges that he sexually abused two of his adopted daughters. His family issued a public apology.

Kennard was 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.

Thanks to your donations, FLOODLIT has obtained court documents tied to Kennard’s sex abuse case.

Court records indicate that a male relative of Kennard learned about the abuse in 2010 and searched through Kennard’s basement home office for evidence. He discovered photos of women’s nude breasts hanging on the office walls, and accessed a computer hard drive that contained images of the abuse.

In all, seven victims came forward, telling authorities that Kennard had molested them hundreds of times, some when they were as young as 10 years old.

Kennard’s wife filed for divorce in 2010.

from KSL on 2011-11-03:

“HEBER CITY — Whatever else he may have been, whatever good deeds have been attributed to him, it was clear Wednesday what Lon Kennard Sr.’s family thinks he is.

“Monster.” “Predator.” “A disgusting man.” “A beastly person.”

“You’ve ruined memories, cursed lives and broken dreams,” one adopted daughter told the man.

“He brought these sweet, innocent girls here under the guise of charity and turned them into personal sex slaves,” a biological son told 4th District Judge Derek Pullan.
“He brought these sweet, innocent girls here under the guise of charity and turned them into personal sex slaves.”
–Lon Kennard’s biological son

Family member after family member — some sobbing, others defiant — stood before Pullan and demanded that Kennard, 70, receive the maximum punishment — consecutive sentences of five years to life in prison for three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony.

And Pullan, after deliberating for nearly an hour in his chambers, delivered the desired sentence, chastising Kennard for going after victims who were “especially vulnerable.”

“You were their father and spiritual leader and you groomed them to fulfill your desires,” Pullan said, adding that Kennard also told the girls the behavior was normal. “You forced children to carry crushing burdens of guilt and shame not of their making.”

The courtroom was packed with friends and family members — most of them now estranged from Kennard — as prosecutor Tricia Lake and Kennard’s victims detailed the abuse. They described how Kennard would wake them by rubbing their bodies with lotions and oils, how he had to be “persuaded” with kisses and touching just so the girls could go to soccer practices, how bedroom and bathroom doors were to remain unlocked.

“They were made to believe that if they felt uncomfortable, they were the ones who were perverted,” Lake said, reciting Kennard’s response to the girls’ questions or doubt: “Don’t be silly. I’m your dad.”
Prior to sentencing, Lon Kennard listened as family member after family member told the judge they reasons they thought he should receive the maximum sentence for his crimes against them. (Pool photo)
Prior to sentencing, Lon Kennard listened as family member after family member told the judge they reasons they thought he should receive the maximum sentence for his crimes against them. (Pool photo)

The girls would try to wake up early or layer on their clothes to avoid Kennard’s touching, which often preceded the family’s prayers, Lake said. One adopted daughter detailed how alone and confused she felt and how she felt Kennard targeted “children desperate for love and hungry for food.”

“I was your sex toy, not your daughter,” she said. “You never wanted me as a daughter. … I know I will never know what normal feels like. … You were getting pleasure from my pain.”

Kennard kept his head lowered as his wife and two of his biological children first addressed the judge and recounted lives of fear and emotional and physical abuse.

“This is a man who once had everything,” his wife, [name], said. “His disgusting desires and selfish choices have destroyed his life as well as so many others.”

She questioned why he was allowed to plead guilty to fewer charges than he had victims. Kennard was originally charged with 47 counts — including 24 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony; 17 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony; forcible sex abuse, a second-degree felony; and witness tampering, a third-degree felony.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop all other charges. The child victims in the case are now adults. Court records indicate Kennard abused six girls related to him and a seventh victim — an Ethiopian 14-year-old — and made videos of the abuse. The abuse of the 14-year-old occurred in Africa.

Prosecutors say the sexual abuse 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 services to destitute villages in Mexico, Central America, Ethiopia and the Caribbean.

One adopted daughter explained how she had always admired Kennard and looked to him for guidance. She said she couldn’t believe that, at times, she encouraged her sisters to comply with his requests, not knowing that what was going on wasn’t normal.

“I protected you from the time I got here,” she said. “How you raised us was completely wrong and unhealthy.”

In addition to the touching, Kennard apparently made one of his daughters model lingerie while he filmed her and placed mini tape recorders in two clocks placed in the bathroom, according to Lake and the victims.

Before he was sentenced, Kennard tearfully begged his family for help.
“They’ve all said how sick I am and I agree, but I need help and I can’t do it by myself. I need a family. It’s horrible to be without a family.”
–Lon Kennard

“They’ve all said how sick I am and I agree, but I need help and I can’t do it by myself,” he said. “I need a family. It’s horrible to be without a family.”

Kennard apologized to his wife, his children, the members of the LDS ward, and the community in Wasatch County.

“I’ve betrayed my church, my religion, my God. … I’m trying my best to repent,” he said. “It’s a big job. A massive job. … I love my daughters. I’m so ashamed, so embarrassed, so amazed that I could do such a thing.”

Kennard’s attorney, Matthew Bartlett, said his client “struggled” to understand how his life had become what it is and pointed to the man’s age and lack of criminal history. He also said Kennard saved many lives through charity work.

“Don’t give in to the temptation that may exist, because of his good works, to seek unjust retribution,” Bartlett said.

Pullan noted Kennard’s history of hard work and humanitarian efforts, but said he is still a man who abused his adopted children.

“All have come to see that Lon Kennard the depraved, and Lon Kennard the upright are shockingly, and disturbingly the same,” the judge said. “You are what you have done and what you have done is destructive and evil.”

[…]

Lon Kennard, 70, was sentenced Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, to three consecutive sentences of five years to life for aggravated sexual abuse of a child.”

Kennard’s obituary from 2019:

“Salt Lake City, UT – Lon Harvey Kennard was born on September 18, 1941 to Leonidas H. and Irma Smith Kennard in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He graduated in the first class of Granger High School in 1959. Lon served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the North German mission. When he returned, he attended the University of Utah and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology. Lon joined the army in 1966, attended Officer Candidate School and was in the Chemical Corp. Lon attended Rutgers University where he earned an MBA. Later he got a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. from Golden Gate University. Lon worked in the health care and communications fields in marketing and executive positions.
Lon was interested in animals and farming from a young age. He got his first cow at age 13. He was fascinated with different languages and loved to read. Lon listened to all kinds of music.
Lon had a love for serving people and for humanitarian work which he did from 1992-2010. He also enjoyed serving in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for many years.
He married [name] Bangerter on September 4, 1964. They later divorced. Lon is survived by 4 siblings, 12 children, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents and one daughter.
Lon passed away on September 1, 2019 at City Creek Post Acute. Services were held on September 5 with interment at the Draper Cemetery on September 7.”

Sources
  1. Granger Grad Earns Doctorate - West Valley View: The Green Sheet - 1983-04-28
    view source details | |
  2. accused was an LDS bishop - Wasatch Wave - 1997-08-06
    view source details | |
  3. Heber charity founder Lon Kennard Sr. charged with years of sexual abuse - Free Republic - 2010-03-24
    view source details | |
  4. Family apologizes after sexual abuse arrest
    view source details | 24 Mar 2010 | Salt Lake Tribune
  5. Nonprofit founder faces life for abuse - Fresno Bee - 2011-09-10
    view source details | |
  6. Ex-Mormon bishop pleads guilty to abuse - Modesto Bee - 2011-09-10
    view source details | |
  7. Heber charity co-founder sent to prison for sexually abusing daughters - KSL - 2011-11-03
    view source details | |
  8. Lon Kennard - obituary - Nelson Family Mortuary - accessed 2023-02-03
    view source details | |
Sources excerpts
  • Granger Grad Earns Doctorate - West Valley View: The Green Sheet - 1983-04-28
    Source type: News article
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    Date published/accessed:
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    accused was an LDS bishop - Wasatch Wave - 1997-08-06
    Source type: News article
    Publisher:
    Date published/accessed:
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  • back to online sources list
    Family apologizes after sexual abuse arrest
    Source type: News article
    Publisher: Salt Lake Tribune
    Date published/accessed: 24 Mar 2010
    archive 1 | archive 2

    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.

    [son] 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," [son] 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, [name], 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. "

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    Nonprofit founder faces life for abuse - Fresno Bee - 2011-09-10
    Source type: News article
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    Ex-Mormon bishop pleads guilty to abuse - Modesto Bee - 2011-09-10
    Source type: News article
    Publisher:
    Date published/accessed:
    archive 1 | archive 2
  • back to online sources list
  • back to online sources list
    Lon Kennard - obituary - Nelson Family Mortuary - accessed 2023-02-03
    Source type: News article
    Publisher:
    Date published/accessed:
    archive 1 | archive 2

Mormon Sexual Abuse Map

International map of locations where active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perpetrated or allegedly perpetrated sexual abuse or other sex crimes, or where LDS leaders failed or allegedly failed to help abuse survivors.