Warren Scott Kennell, a missionary for New Tribes Mission in Sanford, Fla., was sentenced to 58 years in prison for sexually abusing indigenous girls in Brazil. Kennell was exposed in a picture he posted on a child pornography website.
Kennell, 45, made frequent missionary trips between Orlando and Brazil, where he was establishing a church with the Katookeena tribe, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Over several years, he built a trusting relationship with several girls as young as 12 and then sexually abused them.
Once Homeland Security was tipped about the child pornography trafficking, agents stopped Kennell at the airport as he was leaving Orlando. They searched him and found a hard drive and several USB drives with over 940 images of child pornography and abuse.
"Kennell represents the worst kind of criminal - one that preys on innocent children," Shane Folden, deputy special agent at the Tampa office of the Department of Homeland Security, said in the statement.
After his arrest in May, Kennell pleaded guilty to two counts of child pornography.
“We are heartsick. Children are to be protected, not hurt,” said New Tribes Mission spokeswoman Pam McCurdy in a statement Tuesday. “We are grateful to the authorities for the prosecution of this individual despite international legal obstacles.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Davis Wilson said Kennell abused his power as a missionary “in the most horrendous way,” sentencing him to 58 years of jail time.
"I've hurt a lot of people," Kennell acknowledged.
According to WFTV, Kennell comes from a family of missionaries. He was even born and raised in the Brazilian jungle, which his family suggested at trial may have contributed to his amoral actions.
The abuser’s father, Joe Kennell, says the family has forgiven their son and will support him during his sentence.
“God forgives him and we forgive him," he told a reporter.