A jury on Wednesday convicted an Inverness man and a “monster” of sexually abusing a young girl for about a decade.
Following a day-long trial and 45 minutes of deliberations, jurors found Kenneth Brian Slanker guilty as charged on three capital-felony counts of sexual battery and three life-felony counts of sexual battery.
Slanker was found not guilty for showing obscene material to a minor, the jury decided.
Circuit Court Judge Richard “Ric” Howard must sentence 42-year-old Slanker to a mandatory punishment of life behind bars for the former prison guard and local youth league coach’s trio of capital-sex crimes.
However, since Slanker is entitled to and requested a pre-sentence report on him, Howard set aside sentencing for April 3. Slanker will remain jailed without bond until then, Howard ordered.
As a courtroom clerk read aloud Slanker’s verdict, the girl’s family and friends embraced her in the courtroom gallery. Slanker, who had no supporters present, did not speak before a bailiff led him away.
“(Slanker) is a monster,” Assistant State Attorney Shannon Schlarf said in opening statements Wednesday morning. “That’s not actually my words, that’s the defendant’s. … He claimed he was a monster because he did this.”
In Slanker’s defense, his attorney Robert Christensen argued prosecutors don’t have medical reports or DNA evidence to convict Slanker.
“There’s no physical evidence that anything occurred,” he told jurors said in opening statements. “All you’re going to hear are the words of (a) young girl. … She didn’t tell anyone for nine or 10 years. … She had every opportunity in the world to tell someone.”
While questioned at trial by Schlarf and Christensen, the girl, now 16, testified to Slanker first abusing her when she was 5 years old, and showing her pornography when she was 8.
She said Slanker’s abuse became a norm in her life she couldn’t escape from.
“I didn’t want to go through any of that but I didn’t have a choice,” she said. “It was very secretive, he made sure he had a way around it.”
She testified Slanker would threaten her when she didn’t agree to his demands, or if she was thinking of telling someone.
“I didn’t have a way out of it,” she said.
Schlarf prosecuted Slanker’s abuses dating between January 2009 and February 2019, when the girl was between 5 and 15 years old.
When the girl suffered a sports injury and went through surgeries starting in November 2018, it kept Slanker from abusing her, and allowed her to tell relatives a few months later, she testified.
“I was done keeping it away all the time,” she said, adding she didn’t want to report Slanker to authorities. “I felt like it would do more harm than good.”
Christensen asked the girl why she never reported Slanker much earlier to her doctors, teachers or friends.
“I wasn’t going to tell anybody about that,” she replied.
Schlarf also called a 20-year-old woman to the witness stand who testified to Slanker abusing her in similar ways and numerous times when she was younger.
“I’ve spent a lot of years suppressing this,” she testified, “and I finally get justice.”
Because the woman — a “Williams’ Rule witness” — was not a listed victim in Slanker’s charges, Howard ordered jurors to consider her relevant testimony to better understand motive.
Word of Slanker’s recent abuses reached law enforcement, and a Citrus County Sheriff’s Office school resource officer approached the girl in early February 2019, spurring investigations, she said.
When Slanker discovered others knew about his crimes, he threatened to take his own life with a handgun, a former relative of his testified to.
“He was just saying he’s a monster,” the woman said, remembering what Slanker told her when he had a gun to his head.
Thinking there was a warrant for his arrest, which there wasn’t, Slanker on Feb. 6, 2019, turned himself in to authorities, CCSO Detective Sgt. Stephen Conley testified, noting Slanker was never contacted to be questioned.
During an almost two-and-a-half-hour recorded police interview, which Schlarf played for jurors, Slanker admitted to abusing the girl “between 20 and 25 times,” calling himself “a monster,” but denied it happening for 10 years.
“I didn’t want any of it … it’s just like something takes over; your body starts shaking … I really don’t know how to explain it,” Slanker told Conley before his arrest. “I’m sorry, and it’s not her fault. … I just want to make sure she doesn’t have to testify … I’m not going to fight it.”
Christensen argued to jurors his client made his statements while sleep deprived and under the influence of prescribed medications.
Conley testified to Mirandizing Slanker, adding Slanker was coherent, wanted to talk and didn’t want a lawyer during questioning.
Slanker also decided not to testify at his trial, and Christensen didn’t call witnesses.
“There’s something wrong with me. … People like me deserve a bullet in their head,” Slanker said in his interview with Conley. “They’re going to put me away forever, and that’s where I need to be. … Please put me away.”