Jury convicts De Soto man of sex crime against a child in Douglas County District Court
photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World
A Douglas County jury has convicted a man of one child sex crime count in a case where two girls said he abused them more than a decade ago when they were in preschool and kindergarten.
Kenneth Wilson Mills, 35, of De Soto, was convicted of one count of aggravated sodomy of a child on Friday for sexually assaulting the younger of the two girls. But he was not convicted of the other three sex crime counts he was charged with — rape, aggravated indecent liberties with a child and another count of aggravated sodomy. The jury deliberated for about 12 hours across three days and could not reach a unanimous decision on the rape count. Jurors found Mills not guilty of the other two counts.
At trial, jurors heard emotional testimony from the girls, now 14 and 17 years old, over the course of two days.
The older girl testified that in 2010 or 2011, 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 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 assault her.
None of these allegations came to light until 2019, when the older girl told her aunt and then her mother, according to witnesses’ testimony. At the trial, a prosecutor 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.”
Later in the trial, Mills took the stand in his own defense and denied the allegations. His defense attorneys, Cooper Overstreet and Nicholas David, said that the girls’ memories weren’t reliable enough to be used to convict Mills. In particular, the defense team argued that the girls remembered the assaults taking place in a home next to a Lawrence doughnut shop, but that records showed that the doughnut shop hadn’t been built at that time. The defense also argued that police hadn’t interviewed all the necessary witnesses in the case, including some of the people to whom the girls first reported the alleged abuse.
After the verdict was read on Friday, Mills was taken back to the Douglas County Jail, where he has been held on a $100,000 bond since July 2021. A sentencing date has not yet been set, but a news release from the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office said Mills “faces a mandatory sentence of life in the Kansas Department of Corrections with no possibility for parole for 25 years.”