Judge sentences Valley woman who didn’t report husband’s sexual abuse of kids

A Caldwell woman will serve up to 10 years in prison for failing to report that her husband had sexually abused several children, though she could be released on probation much earlier.

Sarah Kester, 51, was charged with felony injury to child and entered an Alford plea, meaning she did not acknowledge guilt but admitted that there was enough evidence to convict her. Her husband, Lester Kester, sexually abused five children over at least two decades. Sarah Kester knew of the abuse and did not notify police.

Canyon County District Judge Christopher Nye gave Sarah Kester a four- to 10-year sentence on Thursday. He retained jurisdiction in the case, meaning Kester will receive treatment for some months while in prison and, if she is successful, could serve the rest of her sentence on probation. She will be credited for the 119 days she already served in the Canyon County jail.

When Sarah Kester was interviewed by police, she reportedly told detectives that she wanted to “pray” for her husband’s “demon” to go away, rather than report him to police.

Deputy Prosecutor Erica Kallin said in court that in 2015, three of Lester Kester’s victims went to Sarah Kester and “begged her” to stop him from abusing another child, who at the time was only 10. Kallin said Lester Kester was having “intercourse” with the victims by the time they were 10.

Rather than report her husband, Sarah Kester called the children “whores” and “sluts,” and blamed them for the abuse, Kallin said.

In court Thursday, Sarah Kester apologized for her actions, saying she understands the children are traumatized. She sobbed as she told the judge she regretted the decisions she made.

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.”

Three victims offered statements to the court, saying Sarah Kester knew of the abuse and failed to help them. One victim said Sarah Kester “kept blaming the devil and that he had a demon in him.”

The judge ordered Sarah Kester to have no contact with any of the children involved.

Defense attorney Bethany Haase said her client respected the children’s decision not to see her and would honor the no-contact order. Haase argued that she would be an excellent candidate for probation because Sarah Kester has no criminal history and is not a threat to the general public.

Haase argued that Sarah Kester has some deficits that made it challenging for her to report her husband, but said her client has extreme remorse.

Lester Kester faces multiple life sentences after pleading guilty to five counts of lewd conduct with a child younger than age 16. Sentencing is set for Feb. 26.

The Kesters are reportedly members of the Followers of Christ Church, which is known for its belief in faith healing rather than taking sick children to a doctor. The topic has been contentious in Idaho the past several years, as some lawmakers have tried and failed to lift the exemption for parents who choose not to seek medical care for gravely ill children.

It’s unclear whether the Idaho Legislature will take the issue up again this year, as the deadline to introduce new bills has passed.

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Reporter Ruth Brown covers the criminal justice and correctional systems in Idaho. She focuses on breaking news, public safety and social justice. Prior to coming to the Idaho Statesman, she was a reporter at the Idaho Press-Tribune, the Bakersfield Californian and the Idaho Falls Post Register.