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Heber City • Salt Lake City attorney Ron Yengich withdrew Wednesday as defense counsel for Lon Harvey Kennard, Sr., the Wasatch County man charged with sexually abusing his adoptive African children, because Kennard can no longer pay for an attorney.
"I believe Mister Kennard is indigent at this point given the ongoing divorce," Yengich told Heber City's 4th District Court Judge Derek Pullan.
Kennard, 68, faces multiple counts of child sex abuse involving children he and his wife adopted in Ethiopia. The couple, who have six biological children, helped found the Village of Hope orphanage in the east African country and subsequently adopted six youngsters there.
Outside the courtroom, Kennard's wife, DeAnna Kennard, did not comment on the pending divorce but said she hoped the case wouldn't make international adoptions more difficult.
"I love these [adoptive] kids as much as the ones I gave birth to," she said. "It makes me sick."
Kennard has thus far refused to enter into a plea bargain, said his son Vyrl Kennard, also outside the courtroom. "It's unfortunate. We want him to do the right thing."
The senior Kennard faces 24 first-degree felony counts of aggravated sex abuse of a child, 21 second-degree felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child, and one count of witness tampering.
Wasatch County Attorney Scott Sweat said he could not comment on any discussions between authorities and defense counsel. Further, he said, until Kennard gets a new lawyer, nothing can happen.
Pullan scheduled a hearing for Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 9 a.m. to determine whether Kennard qualifies for a public defender.
The drawn-out legal proceedings have been difficult for the family, Vyrl Kennard said.
"He says he's sorry, but he hasn't given much information on what he's sorry for," Vyrl said. "That's the hard part. He isn't owning up to it."