Dowagiac man sentenced to life for sexual assault of a minor

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 7:34 PM EDT
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CASS COUNTY, Mich. (WNDU) - A Dowagiac man was sentenced to life in prison today.

Kevin Lee Hanner was found guilty in April 2022 of 15 counts of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree and possession of child pornography.

Prior to his arrest in late 2020, Hanner had been the part-owner and general manager of the Wood Fire Trattoria in Dowagiac. The apartment above the restaurant is where he committed his most recent cruelties.

After his arrest, the Michigan State Police also uncovered an extensive collection of child pornography in his Dowagiac apartment. They reported finding hundreds if not thousands of photos and numerous videos on various electronic devices.

Some of these images and videos were so disturbing that they brought a more severe child pornography charge, including sadomasochistic abuse or sexual gratification from the infliction of physical pain or humiliation either on another person or oneself.

There were also videos and photos of abuses against toddlers.

He was released from jail on bond, fled to Texas, and was arrested in the Lone Star State with a minor on March 23rd, 2021. He was extradited to Michigan to stand trial for this case.

He used the dating-app Grindr to find his most recent victim, and he was sentenced Friday for abuses perpetrated from September 15, 2020, to October 6, 2020.

After decades of sexually abusing children and teenagers, Hanner is finally off the streets for good, and the victims can start to heal.

“There is no amount of time that you can put on to what this monster has done that will ever make it right. Forty years is not enough,” said the survivor’s mother.

She spoke just before the sentences were handed down. She expressed heartache for what her son had endured and wished that his attacker would never see the light of day again, and Cass County Circuit Court Judge Mark Herman agreed.

“You’re 53 years old, and this is not your first time at the rodeo,” said Judge Mark Herman.

“With your prior convictions as well as your current criminal sexual conduct charges, a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years is required by law.”

As a habitual offender, Hanner was facing the 25-year minimum in 9 of his 15 charges.

“But with your nearly quarter of a century track record of repeatedly victimizing society’s most vulnerable citizens, this court believes a longer sentence is warranted.”

He was sentenced to life in prison for three counts of criminal sexual conduct in the 3rd degree - sexual penetration with a minor from 13-15 years old, life in prison for six counts of aggravated child sexually abusive material, and four years for each of the six counts of possession of child pornography.

“Mr. Hanner, there is a place in hell for your kind as well as for those individuals like you in those videos.”

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz wants to commend the young survivor for having the courage to come forward and face his attacker in court. After nearly two years, the survivor, his family, and Hanner’s previous victims finally have justice.

He was optimistic that the healing process could begin for the survivors, saying, “we’re very happy for the victims in this case that they now have a new lease on life, and they will not have to worry about Mr. Hanner stalking or perpetrating crimes against them.”

“We’re certainly pleased with the work of law enforcement in this case, as well, in particular, my chief assistant Tiffiny Montenegro, who was relentless in making sure the defendant was located, that he was rearrested, brought back to Michigan, and now is serving his just desserts,” said Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz.

“This victim can be proud of what he did because, as we’ve seen, this is a defendant who, like so many others, is repetitive in his molestations and his victimization of others. So, because our victim came forward and was courageous, he’s protected and saved the future of many other kids. We have no doubt.”

Relieved from the sentencing, the victim’s mother was hopeful that other children could be helped, adding, “I just hope that they see this and know that there are people there for them; that they should come forward so that this does not happen anymore to any more children.”

Michigan has truth in sentencing, denoting that a life sentence means a life sentence will be served. However, because this sentence isn’t considered a ‘mandatory life sentence,’ and his sentences run concurrently, Hanner could be paroled in 20 years. But prosecutor Fitz is confident that Hanner will spend the rest of his life behind bars, never able to hurt a child again.

Mr. Hanner has the right to appeal against this sentencing, but it is far too early to tell whether he will appeal or not.

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