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Sources: Derby man’s sex crime against boy unrelated to church role

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, August 15, 2013, at 7:32 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, August 16, 2013, at 6:39 a.m.

A Derby man’s sex crime against a 5-year-old boy was unrelated to a youth soccer program the man had coordinated, the child’s mother said Thursday.

The woman said her son is a relative of the man, identified by authorities as Leon James Knabe, 57.

From what she knows of the investigation, Knabe is not suspected of other crimes, she said. To protect the identity of her child, The Eagle is not naming her.

The District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that Knabe had been sentenced that afternoon to almost three years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated indecent solicitation of a 5-year-old boy. After his release from prison, Knabe must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, the office said.

The DA’s office also said Knabe is a former coordinator of youth soccer for his Derby church.

On Thursday, district attorney spokesman Dan Dillon, responding to questions from The Eagle about Knabe’s church role, said the victim was not a member of the church-affiliated soccer teams. Dillon said that Knabe knew the victim.

Also Thursday, Knabe’s defense attorney, Trevor Riddle, said: “The allegations against Mr. Kanabe in this case had nothing to do, nor any connection, with his church nor with his participation in any church activities.

“This case is now resolved, and we would ask everyone to respect the privacy of those involved,” Riddle said, declining to comment further.

Knabe had been arrested and originally charged with aggravated indecent liberties with a child, a crime that can be prosecuted under Jessica’s Law, leading to a mandatory life sentence without parole for 25 years. The original charge accused him of “lewd fondling or touching” of the boy around Oct. 12. But in June, shortly before his trial, Knabe accepted a plea deal for a less serious felony crime — aggravated indecent solicitation, which is enticing or persuading a child to commit a sex act, according to court documents.

The prosecutor discussed the plea with the boy’s family, and “we were satisfied with the plea agreement,” the boy’s mother said Thursday.

She said the crime and fallout have “been very difficult on the family, but we have all handled it.”

Her child is doing well, she said.

“We’re grateful to the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center,” which has provided free therapy, she said.

On Aug. 6, Knabe’s attorney, Riddle, filed a document in court arguing for probation, describing Knabe as a “doting husband, loving father, devoted church member, and trusted friend. He also comes before this Court a humbled and remorseful man.”

Knabe has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and had been employed at the same engineering business since 1993, the attorney said.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com.

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