Elwood man who sparked gay adoption debate admits to molesting more children

INDIANAPOLIS -- A Madison County man whose moral stance against adoption by gay parents sparked national debate in the 1990s before he was convicted of molesting a foster child revealed Tuesday that he had molested a total of five children, including three more under his foster care, decades ago.

The parole of Earl "Butch" Kimmerling, of Elwood, was revoked during a Tuesday hearing where he was found guilty of three parole violations. The parole board asked whether there were victims other than Ashley Peterson, whose case led to his 40-year prison sentence in 2000.

"Oh, five," Kimmerling responded.

The victims were four girls and a boy. Four of them had been under his foster care, said the 71-year-old Kimmerling, who can't seek parole again until June 2020.

"It doesn't surprise me," Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said when informed that Kimmerling admitted to molesting five children. "No one ever reported it."

Cummings said criminal charges could be filed, provided that the molested children haven't reached 31 years of age.

"I will check into it," he said.

Kimmerling didn't provide the names of the five children, and the parole board members didn't request them.

In 1998, Kimmerling and his then-wife were foster parents for a girl named Ashley.

Craig Peterson, a single, gay man living in Indianapolis wanted to adopt Ashley and her three brothers. The brothers lived in foster care with a Chesterfield family while Ashley was with the Kimmerlings in Anderson. Peterson received initial approval to adopt the children.

But the Kimmerlings, who had been foster parents for nearly 50 children, opposed the adoption, citing moral grounds.

Ashley’s fate was debated in national newspapers from the Los Angeles Times to The Washington Post.

Indiana’s Family and Children Services ultimately gave the Kimmerlings the OK to adopt Ashley.

Afterward, Ashley, then 9 years old, told her foster mother that Kimmerling had sexually abused her. Sandra Kimmerling went to police on May 11, 1999.

Eight months later, Butch Kimmerling admitted in a courtroom that he had molested Ashley about once every three to four weeks. Ashley had been in his care for four years.

Kimmerling was found guilty and served 16 years of a 40-year sentence for four counts of child molest.

Peterson eventually adopted Ashley and her brothers.

On Tuesday, Ashley Peterson, now 29, said she knew there might be other victims.

"I am sorry that there are more victims," Peterson said. "After sharing my story, I've been through a lot, and it's taken a lot for me to get this far, and I have a lot further to go. I would never wish this journey on anybody, anybody."

In July 2016, Kimmerling was released from the Indiana Department of Correction after serving 16 years.

He was arrested for parole violation after talking with a high school football player, having a bowl of Halloween candy for trick-or-treaters at his home last October and engaging in unauthorized internet use. According to the terms of his parole, Kimmerling was to have no contact with minors and needed authorized use of the internet.

On Tuesday, Kimmerling said he had not tried to express remorse to Ashley Peterson.

"I know I probably ruined her life," he told the board.

Kimmerling also said that he had been molested at the age of 6 or 7 by a friend of his father.

"I just put a wall up and never thought of it again," he explained.

The gray-bearded Kimmerling sat clasping his hands at a table as he pleaded to the five-member board that he should be released from the Pendleton Correctional Facility.

"If there's any way that even with more sanctions, less time out of the house, I would love to be home with my wife. Her health's not real good," Kimmerling said. "I would appreciate that consideration."

Parole Board Vice Chairman Charles Miller said, "When you present to us, as you have today, multiple instances of sex offenses, the standard which you have for error is very low indeed."

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