A Canyon County man who pleaded guilty to five counts of lewd conduct with a child under 16 in November has been sentenced to at least 31 years in prison on each count, to run concurrently, with an underlying sentence of life indeterminate.
According to charges filed last July and October, Lester Kester, 48, routinely sexually abused five children between 1997 and 2018. At a November hearing, Kester entered his guilty pleas to lewd conduct.
On Wednesday, 3rd District judge Bradly Ford told the court that Kester was deemed a high risk to reoffend, according to a psychosexual evaluation, and was less amenable to treatment than many other sex offenders.
He described Kester and his conduct as “despicable, cold and calculated.” Kester would not be eligible for parole until he is almost 80.
“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.”
Deputy Prosecutor Erica Kallin asked that Kester serve a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. Kester’s attorney, Kenneth Stringfield, asked for 12 years fixed, with life indeterminate.
“There is nothing that this court or treatment provider can do ... that will change the fact that he is attracted to prepubescent children ... I don’t think he can be deterred. I don’t think he can be stopped,” Kallin said.
A person guilty of lewd conduct must have committed the crime “with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust or passions or sexual desires” of themselves.
Kallin described the abuse of the victims, including forced oral sex and vaginal rape. Kester also showed the victims pornography, she said.
During a presentencing investigation, Kallin said Kester did not show remorse and attempted to minimize his actions.
“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.”
Four of the victims read impact statements to the court Wednesday.
“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.”
As the victims read their statements, Kester stared straight ahead, hands folded in front of his mouth.
Stringfield read a letter on Kester’s behalf, and Kester addressed the court briefly before Ford sentenced him.
“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.”
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 and his wife, Sarah, are members of the Followers of Christ Church, a group that believes in “faith healing” rather than seeking help from professionals. Police have said Sarah Kester told detectives that she wanted to “pray” for her husband’s “demon” to go away, rather than report him.
Sarah Kester was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison in February for charges of failure to report the abuse. She pleaded guilty through an Alford plea in October 2018. This meant she did not admit guilt but acknowledged that there was enough evidence for a conviction.