3:46 PM
Peter "Pete" Newman mug shot

The former camp director for Kanakuk Kamps who pleaded guilty to multiple sex crimes involving underage boys was sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus 30 years this afternoon in Taney County.

Peter "Pete" Newman pleaded guilty in February without a plea agreement to two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy, three counts of second-degree statutory sodomy, and three counts of enticement of a child. Newman admitted he betrayed the trust of underage boys and their parents when he held naked bible study in his hot tub, where he performed masturbation with/or on the boys, performed oral sex with the young men and played naked basketball with the youths.

Every available seat (at least 100 in attendance) in Judge Mark Orr's courtroom was occupied by victims of 34 year-old Newman, their families or supporters of Newman's.

Dr. Anna Salter, a clinical psychologist and author called as an expert witness by the state, said that Newman tested in the low category on a Static 99 test and that she would look at the test scores cautiously. Static 99 is a test that measures sex offenders who get caught, according to Salter. "The likelihood for him to re-offend is there, but socially skilled offenders don't get caught often."

Salter added, "When religion is used in sex abuse cases it can cause kids to lose their faith in God." She said the community response to victims (in this case boys between the ages of 11 & 15) and their families is key to their healing and self worth. "The justice system and sentence is a key part of the healing process." Salter testified that during one interview Newman said, "my heart beats for kids"

When pressed by Newman's defense attorney Tom Carver, Salter said Newman could respond positively to treatment.

Defense attorney Tom Carver

Carver called an expert of his own, Dr. Joseph Plaud, a psychologist from Boston who interviewed Newman at the Taney County jail. He says Newman, "does not suffer from any major psychological disorder/s." He says self doubts, relationship dependency and attention seeking disorders may have played a role in Newman's crimes against children.

Plaud says Newman is not a pedophile because he prefers post-pubescent boys not pre- pubescent boys. He testified that homosexuality was considered wrong and sinful in Newman's childhood home and that he would have to address those issues in prison. Plaud says Newman is a victim of repressed homosexual urges.

Plaud testified that Newman suffers from social and sexual insecurities and that he has a sexual interest in young boys (and girls) between the ages of 12 - 15. He said that once the boys started exhibiting the behaviors of growing into men, he lost interest in them. Both experts noted that Newman had only one female sex partner, but numerous sexual encounters with young boys.

When Taney Couty Prosecutor Jeff Merrell cross examined Plaud, the psychologist admitted that he was aware of a situation at Kanakuk in 2003 where Newman signed a probationary agreement acknowledging sexual improprieties with young boys. Merrell said when pressed by the camp in 2009 about victims, "Newman revealed 15 names and when pressed further, he named additional victims."

Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell

Plaud responded that Newman is not at a moderate or high risk to re-offend, but that does not mean he will not re-offend-- and believes "he (Newman) is amenable to treatment."

When Merrell asked Plaud how much his testimony cost the defense, Plaud replied "$11,500." Plaud said that included a couple of trips to Taney County to visit Newman in jail to analyze him.

None of the victims or their families chose to verbally address the court, instead they wrote their statements to Judge Orr who had already read them before today's proceeding.

Doug Goodwin addressed the court on behalf of Kanakuk Kamp. He has been on the staff of the Christian based youth camp for over 20 years. He said, "All of us at Kanakuk Kamps have been heartbroken over this situation. But I want to be very clear about a couple of things. I am not here to talk about the impact this situation has had on our camps. Frankly, this in not about Kanakuk. Instead, this is about the victims of sexual abuse--young people and parents who were deceived and victimized; young people and parents whose trust was broken. Whether they are campers or staff, they are all part of the Kanakuk family and I am here today simple to support them."

When Goodwin added, "Pete Newman was very aware what he did was legally wrong and of the moral implications," Newman hung his head in shame.

Newman's brother, Matt, addressed the court, "Pete's actions have consequences, and that the victims deserve justice. Your honor, he has lost everything, his home his family and love."

A childhood friend of Newman's, Jamie Thompson, told Judge Orr that "Pete has caused real harm to the victim's, a camp that he loves and his saviour. But I also believe in redemption, and I will walk this path of restoration with Pete."

Newman cried as his twin brother David addressed the court. "I have spent a lifetime with Pete; we have wept and prayed for his victims and long that Pete will be made whole. Please let my father have the chance to look his own son in the eyes in his home to start the restoration process. We will be there for a lifetime for him."

Pete Newman wept, as did his victims, their family members, and supporters of Newman as he addressed the court (KSPR has the raw video and text of Newman's statement,)

"To the victims and to their families, I want you to know how sorry I am for the things I have done. And I would gladly trade my life if I could take back the things that I've done and the pain that I've caused, the devastation. I failed the families I had spiritual leadership of. I apologize to the community, I too want justice for them...I need to go to prison. This is the road that leads to healing for me. But on this road, my sin is uncovered and I think this is the road that leads to healing for me. I'm in a place where I can say, between the two roads, I take this one. I'd take the road of healing. I want to be whole more than I want to be with my family and more than I want to get out of this....I want to be healed.

I imagine I am the worst thing that has ever happened to Kanakuk....but God is there." He said Kanakuk is a lighthouse and not to blame them for the darkness he brought upon them.

Merrell then told Orr that Newman, "is the most prolific child molester I have ever dealt with," before asking for multiple consecutive life sentences.

Judge Orr retired to his chambers to decide Newman's fate for a little over 40 minutes, when he came back and delivered the verdicts it seemed that both side were a little stunned. Merrell said, "I'm satisfied, but there's always a sense of gravity when someone is sentenced to life. Adding, "I have never seen consecutive life sentences in all my years of practice."

Carver said, "It is a pretty severe sentence given Pet's promising ability to being amenable to treatment. His family is heartbroken."

Merrell added that the families of Newman's victims, "felt very hurt and taken advantage of."

Newman could be eligible for parole after serving about 12 years in prison, then his next consecutive sentence would kick in, then the additional 30 year sentence after that. In all, it appears that Newman could be behind bars for at least 36 years. Merrell believes Newman will go to the Department of Corrections and that authorities from Colorado will take him into custody there on sexual molestation charges out of La Plata County.

Authorities in Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma and other states have been watching what happens in this case and have expressed interest in Newman for alleged sex crimes against children.

Kevin Fielding, a spokesman for Kanakuk Kamps, says he is not aware of any pending civil litigation against the Branson based camp for Newman's indiscretions while employed by the camp.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Kathee for the information. For months now I have read as parent after parent got ripped to shreds on these blogs for DARING to say that Kanakuk leadership knew something was not right with Pete's behavior and yet kept him on staff, actually PROMOTED him. Now would any of you like to address the statement made my his own psychologist under oath that he was "aware of a situation at Kanakuk in 2003 where Newman signed a probationary agreement acknowledging SEXUAL IMPROPRIETIES with young boys?!?! Because I am sure Kanakuk leadership will continue to dodge the subject like they have been. How do you run a youth camp for God's sake and leave someone like that in a position of authority with kids and put them on PROBATION?? Can't wait to hear the excuses for this one.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Kathee, for this detailed report!

Amanda Tackett said...

I was skewered for my account of attempting to make a report to Kanakuk. This cements what I've been told by several people...no matter what I did, Kanakuk was unwilling to "deal with" the FACTS surrounding Pete Newman.

This is an excellent account, and an example of why new media is playing a vital roll in informing people.

I was STUNNED by Newman's shrink discussing Newman's affinity for young (12-15 year old) girls as well.

Anonymous said...

Someone explain...do we know for CERTAIN that Kanakuk knew about this in 2003???????? What were these improprieties????????? I'm stunned!

Anonymous said...

We know it with about as much certainty as we can short of sitting in the room with Pete and Will Cunningham (or whomever it was in a position of authority over him that made him sign the document) at the moment of his reprimand in 2003. The psychologist for the DEFENSE testified to this at the hearing today.

I have gone from being a huge supporter of Kanakuk for 7 straight years of sending my kids there and hosting movie night year after year in my hometown to now feeling completely manipulated and duped by Joe White and his employees after the lies and ongoing coverup of their negligence.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the update, thorough and fair.

Well, the fact is that you do not know what they were in 2003 and can only speculate. If there were illegalities Kanakuk would be in a large amount of trouble and having charges filed against leadership. The current facts are that they have not been, so it is irresponsile speculation and unwise to jump automatically to the thought that something illegal FOR sure happened in 2003.

And if you're on this site and are a Christian, PLEASE make it a priority to pray for everyone involved in this case...ask that God would grant wisdom and healing. There is a lot of pain, including for me, hitting a lot of people.

Amanda Tackett said...

Okay, Anon at 12:03...your comment was that we aren't sure that something illegal happened in 2003.

Yes, we are.

Newman has been having inappropriate contact with children going back to the time he was in college. Families, several (now) grown men, and others have written to me about what Newman did and when he did it. This wasn't something that started last year. Newman has molested dozens, perhaps even hundreds of boys over the course of the last 16-18 years. He was caught only once, but as the state's doctor testified, this is not unusual.

We can all pray, yes, but I would add WISDOM and DISCERNMENT to your list. God will heal pain, in his time, but he demands believers to be honest and informed.

Anonymous said...

The owners of the camp were interviewed by myself when this story first broke. They denied any knowledge of Newman's actions and stated "there has never been any documentation."
Now, the truth comes out. As a Christian I am deeply offended by Kamp Kanukuk's actions and flat-out lies.
There is a cornucopia of evidence, including the sale and renaming of their Colorado camp (where Newman is still wanted for additional crimes against children) that shows the devious nature of the owners.
This camp should be ashamed of touting itself as "Christian".
Well I will continue to pray for them, I will also pray they start doing the right thing and consider dropping the religious moniker from their name.
Dave Warren

Anonymous said...

Your reply to anon @ 12:03 implies that Kanakuk's 2003 probationary period for Newman was specifically related to molestation.

I'm an avid follower of these blogs/comments, and know that you seem to be in a position of somewhat "inside" information. However, unless you have copies of the 2003 documents, and they are explicit in spelling out the inappropriate contact, I think there is still room for interpretation.

It could have been unfortunate wording on 12:03's part, but I don't believe they were stating that Newman wasn't engaged in illegal activity in 2003. My interpretation is that they, like myself, are having a hard time accepting that Kanakuk would have been aware of illegal physical contact and simply put him on probation.

My bias: I'm a 9 year camper, 4 year counselor. I haven't been there in 10 years, but the place still has my heart.

I'm aware that Kathee's post states that the 2003 situation involved "sexual improprieties with young boys," and that wording is certainly quite clear. However, I'm holding out hope that there is still room for interpretation regarding what Kanakuk knew.

Is skinny dipping or naked basketball absolutely unacceptable and grounds for termination? Absolutely, but I can reconcile their misinterpreting that behavior as misguided rather than predatory as a horrifying error in judgement.

Their awareness of physical or predatory contact runs absolutely counter to everything I know about camp, and that is what commenters like myself, and (if I'm interpreting correctly, anon @ 12:03) can't comprehend. That doesn't make it an impossibility, but it does mean that I will probably not be able to accept it without reading the actual evidence.

Anonymous said...

Amanda Tackett, get a life. You are everywhere on these blogs. Some of us spent real time at Kanakuk. Some of us spent term after term under Pete Newman. Some of us actually were very close to this situation. We get it...you were offended. Now move on. Maybe your daughter's boarding school needs your scrutiny more than these blog sights. We are all devastated and reeling from what Pete has done. You seem bent on banging your own "I told you so" drum and it's time to move on. We were all deceived and devastated as parents that we couldn't protect our kids. We believed in Pete and we were wrong.

Amanda Tackett said...

Are you kidding me? Pete Newman was caught not only in 2001, but in 2003 as well...same MO...running around naked, playing games, riding 4 wheelers...it was a PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR. A pattern that started when Newman was at Auburn. Going back 20 years, Newman received the benefit of the doubt based on what? His family? His words?

Kanakuk had enough reason in those two incidents to "know" there was a problem...not to mention MY complaint in 2006 which was completely ignored. Wake up, folks.

Anonymous said...

Amanda, I agree with June 10 at 7:55. You spend waaaaaay too much time on these blogs. You never even had a relationship with Pete so you don't even know where those of us that did are coming from. You sound like you are trying to make the rest of us look stupid. Emotions, children, years of being campers where Pete mentored our families come into play here. You DID NOT have any of that. You don't know how manipulating he could be. When all of this came out, my son cried for days and said, "Pete is part of our family. He was the closest thing to Christ I thought I had ever known." So put your "i told you so" to rest. We don't care anymore. The rest of us need healing. Obviously you don't. Because you knew all along!! Lucky you!

Amanda Tackett said...

It's incredibly disappointing to be attacked by people who claim to be Christians. Sarcasm is not productive. The healing you claim to seek is not going to come at my expense.

I have given a factual account that is relevant to this situation. I have never ONCE said "I told you so." I was as stunned as anyone. What my daughter saw and what Newman pled guilty for although possibly linked, were not the same thing. I told the CAMP, not you.

Do you think that my child wasn't affected (and still is) by this? Do you think that she wasn't/isn't very confused? Believe me, she cried, too. Couldn't eat. Sleep. She still gets upset by it. Newman's actions have impacted every family and child he was exposed to on some level. I think it's pretty obvious how manipulative Newman was, and I don't for one moment believe anyone who trusted Newman was "stupid."

When we chose not to return to Kanakuk, I took heat from other Kankuk families, and when I explained why we made that decision, I was openly mocked and chastised by parents who had children with "special" relationships with Pete. ("How dare you accuse a Godly man of something so bad.") My fellow Christians gossiped about my family, and quite frankly treated US like WE were STUPID. It is HORRIBLE and DEVASTATING to see these same people hurting now. NO ONE, even in their worst nightmares could have possibly ever thought that this was happening. You weren't "stupid," you were one of thousands of parents who sent their kids to Kanakuk to raise them in the Word and fellowship with other believers.

Can you imagine for one second when I read the actual charge with the facts of the arrest, knowing some of those things happened after 2006 how I felt about not calling the police instead of camp? Don't tell me this hasn't impacted me for YEARS, because it has.

I am a professional writer, journalist, and part of my life is to participate in and promote "new" media. I will continue to participate regardless of the nastiness you direct at me.

Anonymous said...

It's just that you seem to always make it all about you, Amanda. Just look at your posts. The conversation always seems to return to you and your experiences. It's getting old.

Amanda Tackett said...

I disagree. But, in situations where I speak from first hand experience or state my opnion, did you want me to do that from someone else's perspective?

Listen to how that sounds, anonymous.

We've read several dozen comments since last fall from passionate former Kanakuk staff members, all who talk about how Newman impacted them, what camp meant to them...do you feel the same about those comments? Or, are those okay because some people have the right to an opinion or argue a position bassed on a set of criteria in your mind, yet others don't?

When did it become a "rule" that only anonymous comments are allowed to state personal opinions and speak from first hand knowledge?

There is a trend right now with community activists and blog owners to require a verified name and email address to participate in comments and discussion...to stop anonymous attacks that stray off topic.

You have an opinion about me. Great, I get that. Everyone gets that. Why not focus on topics Kathee lists and participate in a discussion that stays on subject?

Anonymous said...

I have tried to stay up to date with this story as I formally worked at Kanakuk and have many friends who were kampers, worked, and continue to work at Kamp.

Three things I would like to mention:

In this post, it was stated that the "sale" and renaming of the Colorado camp was evidence of the "devious nature of the owners." Now, I'm not claiming to know the entirety of the situtation, but I doubt that this is the case. I know that Kanakuk, like everything, has been hit hard by the economy. One of the camps, K-Klassic, was transferred over to the then non-profit side of the Kanakuk ministries, Kids Across America, to servce inner city youth. At the same time, K-Colorado broke away from Kanakuk ministries, not to be devious, but simply because the Colorado directors wanted to go in a different direction with there camp and were allowed to brake away with Joe White's blessing. This is what I was told by various Kanakuk personal during that time frame.

Also, I question that Kanakuk did not do anything in 2003. Kanakuk's interview process is the most intense interview process of any camp, hands down. After my Sophomore year in college, I interviewed with over 14 camps across the country, and Kanakuk was the most intense.
Concerning Kanakuk, I was open and completely honest about my past, and was not hired the first year, but re-interviewed and hired the following year. During this same time frame, I was actually offered a leadership position at another prominent camp, without ever being asked a single pressing question.
I do not want to go into why I was personally not hired, but know that Kanakuk would not simply allow Newman to stay at camp, let alone be director, if they knew of everything that comments on this post claim.

I do still have many Kanakuk contacts, though, and for my own conscience have made it a goal to ask the question of if they did know face to face.

Anonymous said...

I have worked at camp for the last 5 years and agree completely with the last persons comment. The interview is the most intense interview I have ever had (including interviewing for a teaching position.) If camp knew something then Pete would have been terminated immediately. I have personally seen a counselor fired for just mooning someone. There is and was a Zero Tolerance policy