HANCOCK COUNTY — The Greenfield man found guilty of two felony counts of child molestation following a jury trial in July was sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Scott Sirk late Thursday afternoon. Sirk handed down the nearly maximum sentence, a 24-year total term, with 22 of those years to be served in prison and the remaining two suspended to probation.
Earlier this summer, Lonas, 59, was found guilty on two Level 4 felony counts of child molestation. However, the jury found him not guilty on the most serious charges against him — two Level 1 felony counts of child molestation.
Sirk told the courtroom he recognized the victims, appreciated their courage and wanted to see them live productive, full lives. He then told Lonas he believed what Lonas had to say during the sentencing hearing but that he was judging him and sentencing him based on the verdict where he was found guilty.
“These children trusted you,” Sirk said. “You were in a position of trust.”
Level 4 crimes carry anywhere from two to 12 years in prison for each charge. Lonas has been in the county jail since he was arrested on the charges in October of 2020 and will get credit for timed served as well as time for good behavior.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Aimee Herring asked for a total sentence of 24 years with 22 years to be executed and two years suspended to sex offender probation.
“The teenagers that sit before the court today are very different than the two little girls I met over three years ago,” Herring said. “He gave them a lifelong sentence.”
Herring noted Lonas is in a high category to re-offend because he continues to deny the crimes.
The public defender, Jeremy Teipen, requested an advisory sentence between the two to 12 years for each crime, which is closer to a six-year sentence. He ended up asking for an eight-year term with four years to be served for each crime.
Lonas read a prepared statement and told the court that he “didn’t wake up at the age of 56 and decide I wanted to hurt children” and then spoke of what he called the “positive things” he has done for children and his community before he was arrested.
“I’ve been around kids my whole life,” Lonas said. “I’ve never been in trouble with the law … From the time I’ve been in jail, I’ve lost everything.”
Lonas paused numerous times, fighting tears while reading the statement, including when he told the court how he lost his right eye while in jail due to a fight over a bag of potato chips.
During the sentencing hearing, one of the victims identified as Victim 2 noted she looked at Lonas as a father figure and that what happened to her has affected her mentally.
“It has shown me that you have to be careful in who you trust,” Victim 2 said. “I know the max is 24 years, but I really feel like he should get 30 years.”
The victims’ mother also spoke during the sentencing hearing and told the judge her family had been praying for a day of justice for over three years.
“What Kirk has done to my children is a life sentence, they will carry it with them for the rest of their lives,” the mother said.
Two witnesses also spoke on Lonas’s behalf, including his son and his daughter-in-law. The daughter-in-law called him a kind, nice man who has supported her family.
“He has a heart of gold and is beyond kind-hearted,” the daughter-in-law said. “He is the epitome of what a good person should be.”
His son also sang his praises and said Lonas is the best person he has ever met and has been a role model from the start of his life.
“My father has always been the kind of person who can make any room come alive and is constantly asking about others and making others feel appreciated,” his son said. “My father is truly the best person I know.”
Lonas was accused, charged and then found guilty of the two lesser charges of molestation surrounding crimes against children, which officials said happened in 2019.
Another part of this case included how one of the girls had made their mother aware of the molestation incidents on two separate occasions, but the mother had allowed all four of her children to continue to live with Lonas and even be alone with him. The mother was arrested, charged and had a case of neglect against her settled stemming from the incidents.
Lonas had befriended the mother of the children, and he lived with two of the children on his own, starting in 2019 while the mom lived in another state with her other two children. The whole group eventually moved in together in Greenfield, first in the Washington Village Apartments and then in a home. The mother and the victims said during the trial in July they thought of Lonas as a father figure.
Lonas noted the whole trial baffled him as he does not understand how he could be found guilty of some of the charges and then not guilty of the others.