Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

A 70-year-old resident of the Cool-Pilot Hill area was sentenced to five years in state prison after he admitted guilt in a case that involved him offering up his 5-year-old step-granddaughter for sex trafficking purposes including torture and bestiality in 2015.

Kenneth Kyle Harper was sentenced last week in Superior Court in Placerville, after pleading no contest to human trafficking regarding placing ads on Craigslist where he sought to “turn out” the child for a man who advertised in the personals that he and his wife would welcome such activities. Harper also was convicted of possessing child pornography.

The step-granddaughter, who her mother said called Harper “Papa” and has withdrawn and has emotional problems as a result of the situation, also may have been involved in oral sex with Harper, states a report by the El Dorado County Probation Department.

Harper reportedly told the Craigslist solicitor that particular detail, along with outlining what type of sex acts he would “train” the little girl to perform. He offered to arrange for “sexual assault, torture by branding and beating and sexual assault by a canine” of the 5-year-old, according to the report.

“He described horrific acts he wanted inflicted,” states the report, which adds that Harper assured the “customer” that he “would have her trained for the event … break (her in) … and never stop.”

Harper told the shopper that he would beat the child with a ping-pong paddle if she wasn’t compliant and assured that any bruising wouldn’t matter because “she’ll be in a basement.”

He added that he would be happy to “film everything” and said his wife, the child’s step-grandmother, could be part of the sexual scenarios.


Harper told the guy he was eager to set up a meeting, according to the probation report.

The human trafficking attempt came to light when the Craigslist solicitor came under federal investigation and Harper’s name came up as a result of that case. A search of Harper’s home revealed he was in possession of images of bestiality, child pornography and sexual bondage, torture and sado-masochism. Nearly 80 of the images were of mostly white girls between the ages of 5 and 7, the report states, 116 images of animated and “real” bondage and torture and 40 images of women having sex with dogs and horses.

Harper told authorities at the time of the search and arrest that any references to his step-granddaughter found on his computer occurred because he “was hacked.” He also explained that he, himself, was a “child of incest” and his “fantasy is to figure out why it happened.” And thus, he indicated, the porn.

The search by law enforcement also revealed handcuffs, the report states.

Harper’s criminal record includes contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 1978, although details regarding that case are not included. He also has a couple of drunk driving convictions (one involving an injury).

Of note, in 2003 the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by Tioga County, South Carolina, authorities in regard to a reported rape of a 10-year-old in which “a Harper in Pilot Hill” was being sought. Local authorities did not locate him at that time, according to the probation report.


Harper refused to be interviewed by the probation department prior to sentencing before Judge Vicki Ashworth in Placerville and declined to fill out a questionnaire regarding his case. Harper also did not submit a written statement as is his right, according to the probation report.

Harper “has had opportunities to express remorse,” states the report, “but has refused.”

The formerly 5-year-old girl, now about 9, has problems with trusting others, with her mother laying the blame squarely on Harper’s shoulders.

“It totally changes you,” the woman told the probation department. “The one place you should have safe, sacred ground is your family.”

The girl “avoids conversation” and Harper’s actions have “taken her innocence,” the mother told the court. She asked for “the most severe punishment (that would result in) him being in jail the rest of her (the daughter’s) life.”

She said the girl is “very worried she won’t know where he’ll be when he’s released” and that she hopes “he lives as far away as possible, alone on a mountain, away from other children.”

The mother added that this case gave her “the most helpless feelings I’ve ever had … it brought me to my knees” and that she wished she would have figured out sooner what was transpiring in her family.

“I knew as a mother something was wrong,” she told the court. “I just couldn’t put the pieces together. “I’m a victim of human trafficking, our family … and I say that without shame or embarrassment — because we are survivors.”

She said she and her daughter “will rise together” and although she cannot yet forgive Harper, she thanked the criminal justice system for “our small piece of justice.”


“I hate that man with every fiber of my being,” she concluded, submitting photos of her daughter apparently taken prior to the nightmare’s beginning.

In sentencing Harper to five years, Judge Ashworth noted that the plea bargain between him and the District Attorney’s Office, with the prosecution headed by Lisette Suder, precludes having the victim take the stand in what would almost certainly be a painful trial.

“I am willing to go along with the plea arrangement at this time (because) it saves (the girl) having to come in and testify,” said Ashworth during the July 1 sentencing in Dept. 1 downtown. 

Deputy DA Suder said “great thought and care” was given by her office in agreeing to the plea bargain.

“(The victim) is showing signs of her trauma … she still is not talking about it,” said the deputy district attorney. “We all feel … we wish we could get a larger sentence.”

Given the girl’s age, 5 at the time in 2015, Judge Ashworth said she recognized that factor as well, in upholding the plea arrangement.

Because Harper has been in custody since his arrest in October 2017, he was given credit for 783 days already served, 782 days good conduct for a total of 1,565 days. He was ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, to make monetary restitution and pay mandated fines and to stay away from the victim in this case for 10 years.

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