At trial, teenage girls allege De Soto man sexually assaulted them more than a decade ago

Kenneth Wilson Mills at a trial on Aug. 2, 2022, at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.

Two teenage girls testified at a trial Tuesday for a man they say sexually assaulted them when they were in preschool and kindergarten about a decade ago — and were asked why it took so long for their allegations to come to light.

The defendant in the case, Kenneth Wilson Mills, of De Soto, is now 35 but would have been 23 to 24 at the time of the alleged crimes. He is charged with one count of rape, two counts of aggravated sodomy, and one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. According to court documents, the rape charge involves a 5-year-old child and the remaining charges involve a 3-year-old. All of the charges are off-grid felonies and could result in a life sentence if Mills were to be convicted.

On Tuesday, the girls, who are now ages 14 and 17, said that Mills was their mother’s boyfriend when they were in preschool and kindergarten and alleged that he touched them inappropriately. The older girl testified that she recalled only one incident, but the younger girl said that Mills did inappropriate things to her multiple times.

The older girl testified that one day Mills pulled her out of her kindergarten class early for what he claimed was a doctor’s appointment, but that they instead went back to the Lawrence apartment where the girls, their mother, a 1-year-old child and Mills all lived. When they got there, the girl said Mills took her to his bedroom, laid her on the bed and sexually assaulted her.

The younger girl testified — at times tearfully — that Mills was responsible for babysitting the children while their mother was at work, and that while the other kids were watching TV Mills would sometimes take her into his room and sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions.

However, none of these allegations came to light until 2019. The older girl testified that she was talking with her aunt about her mother’s past boyfriends, and that when the conversation turned to Mills she told her aunt about the alleged assault. She said her aunt gave her an ultimatum: either the girl would tell her mother within the next few weeks or the aunt would do it herself. It was in June of 2019 that the older girl told her mother, the girl testified.

The mother also took the stand and said that when she found out about the allegations, she immediately made a report to the Kansas Department for Children and Families, which forwarded information to Lawrence police. Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden asked the mother why she reported the incident so quickly, and she said that “I believe (Mills) deserved to get punished.”

Assistant District Attorney Paula Bustamante also asked the girls why they didn’t tell anyone about their allegations sooner. The older girl said she “didn’t think anyone would care,” and the younger girl said Mills “told me that my mom already knew and they had talked about it.”

In July 2019, the girls were interviewed by Lawrence police detectives. One of the interviewers, Detective Joshua Leitner, testified that the girls each described different incidents with Mills that took place between August 2010 and May 2011 at the apartment.

The mother said the older girl was the first to be interviewed, and that the detectives then told the mother to ask the younger daughter whether she would be willing to talk to police. The mother said that when she asked the younger girl, she also asked whether Mills had touched the younger girl inappropriately. The mother said the younger girl replied “Oh yeah, all the time.”

“I thought you already knew,” the younger girl said she told her mother.

Kenneth Wilson Mills, left, Nicholas David, and Cooper Overstreet, at a trial on Aug. 2, 2022, at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.

Mills was represented by defense attorneys Cooper Overstreet and Nicholas David. Overstreet asked Leitner why he didn’t interview some of the people the older girl had spoken to, including the girl’s aunt. Leitner said the girl had told her mother shortly after she told her aunt, and that he didn’t think that the aunt’s story would be any different.

Tuesday’s proceedings were interrupted multiple times when the younger girl began to shake and cry during her testimony, and Judge Sally Pokorny ended the day early after the defense raised a legal issue about the younger girl’s testimony. The younger girl is expected to finish her testimony on Wednesday.

Mills was first arrested in February of 2020 and posted a $50,000 bond. However, he violated the house arrest conditions of his bond in July of 2021 and was rearrested, this time on a $100,000 bond, which he did not post.

Correction: This article was corrected to reflect that Mills did not post a $100,000 bond.