Dowagiac man convicted of child molestation, pornography gets life sentence

Published 11:55 am Friday, May 20, 2022

CASSOPOLIS — A Dowagiac business owner was sentenced to life in prison Friday in Cass County Circuit Court. 

Kevin Hanner, co-owner of the Wood Fire restaurant in downtown Dowagiac, had earlier been found guilty of criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography.

The April trial in Cass County Circuit Court before Judge Mark Herman ended with Hanner being convicted of three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, six counts of aggravated possession of child sexually abusive materials and six counts of possession of child sexually abusive materials-all as a habitual offender.

Hanner, 53, of South Front Street in Dowagiac, was sentenced Friday to nine concurrent terms of life in prison for the criminal sexual conduct and aggravated child pornography counts. He received six concurrent sentences of four years to 15 years in prison on the remaining child pornography counts.

He has credit for 374 days already served and must register as a sex offender. His fines, costs and restitution total $4,590. He is to have no contact with the victim or with anyone 17 years old or younger.

The criminal sexual conduct incidents occurred Sept. 15, 2020 to Oct. 6, 2020 against a 14 year old boy in downtown Dowagiac. The child pornography incidents occurred between 2016 and November, 2020 in Dowagiac. A search of his computers and phones found hundreds if not thousands of images and videos of adults engaging in sexual conduct with children, some as young as toddlers.

Judge Herman didn’t mince words before sentencing Hanner. “There is a place in hell for your kind and for those people in those videos,” he said. “You’re 53 and this is not your first time at the rodeo. You’ve been sentenced to prison twice in Berrien County and once in Texas.”

“The evidence of your guilt was overwhelming,” the judge said. “You befriended the young victim on Grinder and gained his trust. He came to your apartment numerous times and you engaged him in sexual activity. He reported you to the police and their search of your apartment found a number of computers and cell phones with pictures and images of hundreds if not thousands of adults having sex with children, some as young as toddlers.”

“How an individual can derive some sort of sick, twisted pleasure from the ruination of any human’s life let alone an innocent child’s for a few moments of perverted pleasure is inconceivable to this court,” he added.

Judge Herman deviated from the recommendation of 40 years in prison, noting that Hanner fled to avoid prosecution and was found in Texas apparently soliciting another minor boy and that the guidelines didn’t take into consideration his history of victimizing children.

“You have become treatment savvy and discarded any true rehabilitation efforts, you have not truly availed yourself of treatment to change your predatory conduct,” he said. “The court has no doubt that you will strike again if given the opportunity.”

“The mandatory minimum of 25 years is required by law but with nearly a quarter century track record of repeatedly victimizing society’s most vulnerable citizens, the court believes a longer sentence is warranted … Lives have been destroyed and you have shown no remorse.”

“Society has bent over backwards to give you the opportunity to change and now society calls on the court to bend over backwards to finally assure that you never get out of prison to victimize other children again,” he added.

The victim’s mother spoke before sentencing. She said she has seen her child change from what happened to him and is only now starting to recover. “He was no longer the same person, he suffered so much along with our family,” she said. “No amount of time will ever make it right from what this monster has done. 40 years is not enough.”

“I ask that you take all of this into consideration, I hope he never sees the light of day again,” she added. “He ruined the life of my child.”

Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Hubbert called Hanner a serial child predator. “He’s been that all of his adult life, I hope his trail of trauma from Michigan to Texas comes to an end today,” he said. “… It’s absolutely necessary to protect the public and individuals who are victims of human traffickers and child predators of this horrible and graphic abuse. He’s just an evil man.”

Defense attorney Greg Feldman said that Hanner had tried to make a life for himself after his release from prison the last time and operated a successful business in Dowagiac. “He tried to better himself, pay taxes and run a business, unfortunately he ran into this problem,” he said.