Village of Hope founder pleads guilty to child sex abuse

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 7 2011 2:57 p.m. MDT

HEBER CITY — The co-founder of a nonprofit group that helps women and children in Third World villages, pleaded guilty Wednesday to sexually abusing children.

Lon Harvey Kennard Sr., 68, of Heber City, pleaded guilty to three first-degree felony counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

He 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 pleas, prosecutors agreed to drop all other charges. He will be sentenced Nov. 2. During a court hearing Wednesday, 4th District Judge Derek Pullan instructed the court clerk to keep the entire afternoon open for the sentencing hearing.

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 teen — who is not related to him, and made videos of the abuse.

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.

He and his wife adopted six children from Ethiopia in addition to having six biological children of their own.

Pat Reavy, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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