Authorities finally moved on a probe of Kenneth Dewitt
, 67, a former chaplain at the McPherson women's prison
in Newport. Under investigation at least since A
pril, he's been charged with 50 counts of third-degree assault for sex with inmates.
The case drew attention in June when new reporting by Claudia Lauer of the Associated Press identified Dewitt and indicated the investigation may have spread to other prison workers. Dewitt was of interest, too, because of his religious program, associated with a conservative evangelical minister with his own history of sexual misconduct allegations: Bill Gothard.
Dewitt left prison employment last year after reportedly admitting inappropriate contact with another chaplain. That led to his being barred from the prison, but sex with inmates is illegal and led to a state report that went to a local prosecutor. Federal authorities later joined a widening look at the prisons.
Today's charges were on the state level. They were announced by Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyc
e of Newport, according to a report from KARK.
The counts stem from actions between January 2013 and September 2014 and cover sexual contract with three inmates, KARK said.
Boyce told me that he's had no contact with federal officials and his charges were strictly related to a case developed by the State Police. He was delayed by additional investigation and conducting a capital murder case, he said.
In a statement of facts giving reasonable cause for the arrest, Boyce's office said the Correction Department had provided information that Dewitt had had sex with three inmates. This was after he was fired for having an open relationship with a parolee. It is a crime both for a Correction Department employee and for clergy, or other people in positions of trust, to use those positions to have sex with people under their control or trust.
The statement said a female inmate had gone to Dewitt's religious program in February 2008, became a student and stayed as a clerk. In 2010 or 2011, she said he kissed her and it shocked her, but it lead to more intimate contact. He started calling her at 6 a.m. on Sundays for sexual activity including oral sex and sexual intercourse. She said she knew other women he'd call on different days.
*** stated that after the kiss, Dewitt started touching her and that lead to oral sex that would happen once every 2 or 3 weeks. **** stated that this would take place at the entry door where she would have to sit in a chair while Dewitt looked down the hall for anyone t
hat may come up to the door. *** stated that sexual intercourse occurred 4 or 5 times, leading up to his dismissal, but more so in the year of 2013.
***'s statement about the time of day and the location where these crimes were committed, was consistent with other female inmates that were interviewed in regard to this defendant.
The inmate is serving a life without parole sentence for
killing her mother, a fact likely to be used by defense should the case go to trial.
NOTE: The public documents in the case identify the inmates involved. I strayed from our general policy in using the name of a sexual assault victim in the original post and have since edited it.