An Idaho woman received only a year in prison for failing to report her husband’s two-decade sexual abuse of multiple children. Sarah Kester told police that she did not report her husband’s sexual abuse because her faith prohibited her from involving government agencies in her family’s life.
For nearly two decades, Lester Kester sexually assaulted four children between the ages of 1 to 13 years old. One of his victims was assaulted for more than a decade. His crimes went overlooked by his wife, Sarah, for more than seventeen years.
Everything changed for the family in the summer of 2018. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Children and Family Services became aware of a young girl that told authorities Lester Kester molested her. After finding out about the girl, the department contacted police to investigate the claims.
After the first girl came forward, three more victims admitted that Lester sexually assaulted them. One of the victims told police that they had been raped as recently as 2016.
Police arrested Lester Kester in June 2018 for the crimes spanning from 1997-2018. During an interview with police, Sarah Kester dropped a major bombshell on investigators.
She admitted that she first learned of Lester’s abuse more than 17 years ago. Instead of reporting her husband to authorities, she prayed for the demons to leave his body. Additionally, she tried her best to keep her children away from her husband.
For 14 years, Sarah kept Lester’s secret and did nothing to stop him. Then in 2015 one of his victims, a 10-year-old girl confided in Sarah that Lester raped her. Lester began raping his victims as soon as they turned 10, according to authorities.
Instead of helping the child, prosecutors said that she called the victim a “whore” and “slut.” Sarah went as far as blaming the 10-year-old girl for the abuse.
Investigators arrested Sarah for failing to report the abuse. Instead of going through a trial, she entered an Alford Plea in court. The plea meant she did not admit to any guilt but understood there was enough evidence to convict her of a crime.
At her sentencing, three of Lester’s victims shared that they told Sarah about the abuse. They said that instead of helping them Sarah told them that a demon was possessing Lester.
Sarah cried in court and said,
When she first learned of the abuse, “I should have listened and got out of my marriage right there,” Kester said . “I screwed up deep down. I didn’t mean to hurt (these) kids.”
After the victims’ statements, the judge sentenced her to only a year in prison to complete a counseling program. If she fails to finish the required program within a year, she will serve 4-10 years in prison. She received credit for 119 days of time served.Sarah’s defense attorney blamed her inability to report the abuse on ‘some deficits.’ Her attorney requested she receives only probation because she had no criminal history.
Thankfully, the judge did not bend to that request.
Sarah and Lester Kester belonged to a church that is known for faith healing. Children in the church do not see medical doctors. Instead, the congregation prays for the child’s full healing. Apparently, this same church doesn’t believe in reporting atrocious sexual abuse.
Mothers are supposed to protect their children from harm. Rather than protecting her children, she minimized the abuse and blamed the victims. The fact that she knew about the abuse for 17 years means she could have stopped the abuse of multiple children.
Instead, she stuck to her ludicrous belief system that valued family privacy over the safety of children. Her sentence is a mere slap on the wrist. She will serve less time in prison than Lester’s victims were abused.
What these children went through will take a lifetime to recover from and is devastating. Perhaps the sentencing of Sarah and Lester will enable the children to move forward and break free from their church.
Lester Kester pled guilty in November to five lewd conduct charges. He faces up to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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