ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man who frequently checked a teenager out of school without her mother's knowledge and fled to Mexico with her has been sentenced to 2½ to five years in prison.
Forty-five-year-old Kevin Esterly was sentenced at an emotional hearing Monday after pleading guilty last month to misdemeanor corruption of a minor. Two felony charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.
Esterly and the teenager were found in Mexico on March 17 , about two weeks after they disappeared from Allentown. The girl's family said the two met at church years ago, and the teenager was friends with one of Esterly's children.
Esterly apologized during his plea hearing but said the relationship was innocent. The teenager testified Monday on Esterly's behalf, saying they had no sexual contact. Prosecutors have said she said it was her desire to flee the country, and after she told Esterly, he decided to join her.
Lehigh County Court Judge Maria Dantos told him he had ruined two families. Esterly's estranged wife, Stacy, who filed for divorce shortly after the two were returned, testified tearfully Monday that she is struggling as a single mother, The (Allentown) Morning Call reported.
"My 11-year-old got approached on the school bus by an 8th-grader who asked if she was going to be a child molester like her father," she said.
The judge also expressed doubt about the contention that the relationship was never physical, telling Esterly that he had asked her to make “some unreasonable leaps” about the relationship “that I’m not willing to make.”