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Ex-prison chaplain faces 50 counts of sexual assault involving 3 inmates

by Brandon Riddle | December 17, 2015 at 2:37 p.m.
Kenneth Dewitt in 2002

A former chaplain of the Arkansas Department of Correction has been charged with 50 counts of third-degree sexual assault stemming from reported encounters with three inmates in Newport.

Kenneth L. Dewitt, 67, faces the charges after reports of sexual assault at the McPherson women's unit between January 2013 and September 2014, Third Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce said in a statement Thursday.

Dewitt resigned from his position as chaplain at the women's unit in a handwritten note Sept. 10, 2014, one day before former inmate Stacey Smith wrote a letter to the Department of Correction saying that she and Dewitt had a "moral failure" years after her release, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

In a Sept. 16, 2014, memo to the McPherson Unit's human resources department, John Mark Wheeler, assistant director of the Department of Correction, said Dewitt "called and confessed to having an inappropriate physical relationship with a subordinate in violation of AD 12-33."

At that point, Wheeler said Dewitt accepted an offer to resign effective immediately from his chaplain position.

According to the affidavit, one of the inmates who had been at the unit since November 1999 was interviewed March 12 by a special agent with Arkansas State Police. The inmate said she noticed Dewitt acting peculiar starting in late 2010.

Dewitt would "grab her and in an unusual way," ask the inmate how she "was dealing with her sexual desires" and would take the inmate's "hand and put it on his leg," she said. The inmate added that Dewitt's acts eventually "progressed to having intercourse" with her on Wednesdays.

The three inmates were part of a "weekly schedule" for Dewitt to perform sexual activities on them, the inmate told state police.

A second inmate who arrived at the unit in January 2006 was also interviewed March 12, telling state police that Dewitt would have her come to his office on Mondays for oral sex and sexual intercourse. She told state police that sexual contact began shortly after one instance in which Dewitt said "she wanted to touch him and wanted to be with him."

The third inmate interviewed March 24 by the special agent said Dewitt kissed her and called her in on Sundays "for sexual activity including oral sex and sexual intercourse." She reported having sexual intercourse with Dewitt four or five times.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Jeannie Roberts of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette contributed to this article.

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