Crime

Sentencing postponed for woman who failed to report husband’s sexual abuse

Sentencing was postponed today for the Caldwell woman who faces a potential prison sentence for failing to report her husband’s sexual abuse of children because she claimed it was contrary to her religious beliefs.

Sarah Kester, 50, was charged with felony injury to child. She pleaded guilty to the charge through an Alford plea, meaning she does not acknowledge guilt but acknowledges that there is enough evidence to convict her.

Her husband, Lester Kester, 48, pleaded guilty in November to molesting five children over two decades. He pleaded guilty to five counts of lewd conduct with a child younger than age 16 and faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced next week.

Sarah Kester was set for sentencing on Wednesday before District Judge Christopher Nye, but it was postponed until Feb. 14. She remains in custody at the Canyon County jail.

When detectives interviewed Sarah Kester last year, she told authorities that she learned of her husband’s actions about 17 years ago, and she was again confronted by the victims about three years ago, according to the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office has said Sarah Kester told detectives that she attempted to protect the children through praying for “the demon” to leave her husband and by attempting to keep him busy with other tasks, because she did not want to bring law enforcement into what she termed personal matters.

The Kesters are members of the Followers of Christ Church in Canyon County, a religion that believes in faith healing. The church has been accused for years of allowing children to suffer and even die because it does not believe in modern medicine; it relies on prayer to cure the ill. Fundamentally, the Followers of Christ believe that pharmaceuticals are the product of Satan, and if they give their children medicine, the child will be sent to “hell.”

Though previous focus on the church has been on medical neglect, ex-followers have told authorities, lawmakers and the media that believers of the church also avoid contacting law enforcement, a policy that enables crimes to occur undetected by police.

The initial arrest of Sarah Kester drew attention from lawmakers because she was charged with injury to child, a crime that leaves an exemption for parents who decline to seek medical treatment for their children. The Legislature has repeatedly made efforts and failed to agree upon changing the law, which allows parents to let their children die if they believe it is God’s will.

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, previously said that he hopes to bring a bill this Legislative session that might lift the faith-healing exemption. The session just began last week, so no such bill has been floated yet.

Lester Kester remains in custody at the Canyon County jail and is set for sentencing at 1 p.m. Jan. 23.

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