A man that repeatedly raped his daughters for decades was sentenced in court in April. Lester Kester, of Canyon County, Idaho, pleaded guilty to lewd conduct in November 2018. Lester’s wife, Sarah Kester, was sentenced for her role in the crimes in February 2019.
Nearly five months after Lester Kester pleaded guilty to lewd conduct, a judge sentenced him to 31 years to life in prison. The Idaho Statesman reported the sentencing of Kester in April.
The sentencing wrapped up a horrific case that stunned many in the small Idaho county. Lester and Sarah Kester belong to a faith-healing church called Followers of Christ. The group does not believe in medicine, vaccinations, and refuses to go to the hospital for significant illnesses. Instead, members of the church pray for complete healing by God.
Followers of Christ members live in a tight-knit community and maintain limited contact with the outside world. Members are fearful of police and prefer to resolve criminal matters within the community. Men are the rulers of the home. Women in the group are barely educated and expected to breed and raise children. Children raised in the church do not attend public school nor interact with “worldly” people.
Due to the group’s immense distrust of the outside world, crimes of sexual abuse and domestic violence are not uncommon in families. Rather than reporting crimes to the police, members are urged to pray for one another.
In Lester’s case, he and his wife Sarah covered up his crimes against his daughters for nearly 20 years. Sarah Kester learned about her husband’s crimes in the early 2000s. One of her daughters told Sarah that Lester was sexually molesting them. Rather than helping her daughter, she prayed for demons to leave her husband’s body.
A few years before his arrest, the daughter’s told their mom about their father raped them. Rather than helping her daughters, Sarah called them whores and sluts. Again, Sarah did not report him to police. She believed her husband’s actions were the result of demonic possession. Sarah continued to pray for the demons to leave his body.
Without anyone turning him in, Lester continued to rape and molest his daughters up until his arrest in 2018. In total, five victims came forward and accused Lester of rape and sexual misconduct. Four of the victims in the case were his daughters.
After prosecutors presented their evidence to the court, Kester agreed to take a plea deal. In November, he pleaded guilty to five counts of lewd conduct with a child under 16 years old.
Prosecutors argued that Kester showed no remorse for his actions. Additionally, they argued that Kester could not be reformed because he’s attracted to prepubescent youth. Deputy Prosecutor Erica Kallin told the court,
“He does not consider himself to be a sex offender,” Kallin said. “(He said) this happened because of a lack of planning and poor judgment. … This was a calculated decision by a pedophile.”
“What happened to us does not define us … what happens to us now is our future,” one victim said. “He will no longer harm anyone at all. I hope that monster enjoys what’s coming to him … we are no longer victims, but warriors.”
Another victim told the court that “no one needs to go through this fear, torture and misery.”
While the victims made their statements, Kester looked straight ahead and showed no emotion. When the victim’s statements were complete, Kester said to the court,
Judge Bradly Ford sentenced Kester to 31 years for each count to run concurrently. The judge also added an indeterminate sentence of life in prison. Kester will not be eligible for parole until he’s 80 years old.
“I hope they find it in their heart to forgive me,” Kester said. “I’m very sorry for what I’ve done, and I’m here to take whatever you feel necessary.”
While ordering the sentence, Judge Ford said,
“The court has to deal with many people who are charged with life offenses,” Ford said. “In my many years on the bench, this may be the worst conduct — close to the worst if not the worst — that I have seen.”
The judge went on to tell Kester that he agreed with the victims that Kester was a monster.
Judge Ford said he had “never used the word ‘monster’” when sentencing someone. “But I certainly couldn’t disagree with (the victims’) characterization,” he told Kester.
“My message to you and other predators like you is that this horrific conduct will not be tolerated in our community and our society. We need to protect children from people like you.”
Kester will now spend the next three decades behind bars at a minimum. His wife Sarah was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for not reporting his crimes. With both parents behind bars, the girls are free from their parent’s twisted abuse and beliefs. There are no details about the locations of the victims at this time. At least two of his daughters are over the age of 18.
Churches like Followers of Christ protect predators by enabling their abuse and not reporting their crimes. The church not only doesn’t report sexual abuse, but they do not provide medical treatment for children. Due to their extreme beliefs, hundreds of children have died prematurely from childhood illnesses like food poisoning, strep throat, and influenza.
Idaho is one of the few states in the nation that allows parents to deny medical care if they practice faith healing. The state is ok with negligent death but not child rape. Lawmakers in Idaho have some explaining to do.