Canyon County man pleads guilty in child sex abuse cases

The Idaho Statesman - - Front Page - BY RUTH BROWN AND KATY MOELLER rbrown@ida­hostates­ kmoeller@ida­hostates­

A 48-year-old Canyon County man who mo­lested five chil­dren over two decades has reached a plea deal with pros­e­cu­tors.

Lester Kester pleaded guilty to five counts of lewd con­duct with a child younger than age 16 in court on Wed­nes­day.

He was charged in July with four felony counts of lewd con­duct with a child younger than 16. In Oc­to­ber, he was charged with a fifth count of lewd con­duct after an­other child came for­ward.

Canyon County Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor Erica Kallin said in court that pur­suant to the plea agree­ment, the state will not be fil­ing ad­di­tional charges against Kester for pos­si­ble pos­ses­sion of sex­u­ally ex­ploita­tive ma­te­rial.

Third Ju­di­cial Dis­trict Judge Bradly Ford ac­cepted Kester’s guilty plea after ex­plain­ing that Kester was waiv­ing some rights. Ford asked Kester whether he com­mit­ted the crimes.

“Yes, your honor,” Kester told the judge. Kester out­lined the type of sex­ual abuse that oc­curred with each vic­tim, in­clud­ing touch­ing the vic­tims’

gen­i­tals with his mouth and hands.

The sex­ual abuse oc­curred be­tween 1997 and 2018, ac­cord­ing to the charges filed in July. In­ves­ti­ga­tion into the abuse be­gan in June, after the Idaho Depart­ment of Health and Wel­fare was con­tacted about pos­si­ble child mo­lesta­tion.

Un­der the law Kester is charged, a per­son guilty of the crime must have com­mit­ted it “with the in­tent of arous­ing, ap­peal­ing to, or grat­i­fy­ing the lust or pas­sions or sex­ual de­sires” of them­selves. When Ford asked Kester whether he com­mit­ted the crime for that pur­pose, Kester said no, he in­tended to grat­ify the child.

When pressed by Ford on the com­ment, Kester ad­mit­ted his ac­tions were done to sat­isfy both “my­self and the child.”

Kester’s wife, Sarah, 50, was ac­cused of know­ing about the abuse and not re­port­ing it. She was charged with felony in­jury to a child. Sarah Kester pleaded guilty though an Al­ford plea last month. In an Al­ford plea, she does not ad­mit guilt but ac­knowl­edges that there is enough ev­i­dence for a jury to con­vict her.

“Sarah Kester told de­tec­tives that she didn’t re­port the abuse be­cause it was against her be­lief sys­tem to in­volve agen­cies such as law en­force­ment, child pro­tec­tion ser­vices, or coun­sel­ing ser­vices” into per­sonal mat­ters, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease from the Canyon County Sher­iff’s Of­fice. “In­stead, she said she at­tempted to pro­tect (the) chil­dren through pray­ing for ‘the de­mon’ to leave Lester and at­tempt­ing to keep him busy with other tasks.”

The Kesters are mem­bers of the Fol­low­ers of Christ and be­lieve in “faith heal­ing,” which in­volves pray­ing to cure ills rather than seek­ing help from doc­tors or law en­force­ment of­fi­cials, the States­man re­ported in July.

Sarah Kester is set for sen­tenc­ing at 9 a.m. Jan. 16 for her role in the crime. She could face up to 10 years in prison.

Lester Kester is set for sen­tenc­ing at 1 p.m. Jan. 23. Ford will not be bound by any agree­ment be­tween at­tor­neys and is free to fash­ion what­ever sen­tence he sees fit. Kester’s crimes carry up to life in prison for each of­fense; pros­e­cu­tors said they will rec­om­mend a fixed term of six years if an eval­u­a­tor de­ter­mines that Kester is a “low risk” for re­of­fend­ing.

Lester Kester

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