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022118 hans kardel trial

Santa Maria businessman Hans Jorgen Kardel, 84, is pictured in this file photo taken Feb. 21 at the Santa Maria Superior Court, where he was convicted of molesting one of his granddaughters when she was under the age of 16. 

A string of family and friends testified Wednesday for the defendant in the child molestation trial involving well-known businessman Hans Kardel, painting a picture of an upstanding man who is highly regarded in the community.  

The defense began calling its witnesses, along with Kardel himself, during proceedings at the Santa Maria Superior Court.

Kardel's former pastor at Orcutt Presbyterian Church, fellow parishioners and professional colleagues used the words "wonderful," "impeccable" and "truthful" to describe the defendant who is accused of molesting his two grandchildren in his Oak Hill Drive home when they would visit. 

Robert Wedaa, former pastor of Orcutt Presbyterian Church, testified that he'd been friends with Kardel for over 40 years, and often socialized together even after his retirement. 

"I always felt he was a wonderful man," said Wedaa, under defense attorney Catherine Swysen's questioning. "I'm honestly just flabbergasted I'm here today." 

Fred Donati met Kardel through the insurance business field and served with him in the Santa Maria Rotary Club, calling Kardel "impeccable." 

"I've known [Hans] for a very long time," Donati said. "He's a good man." 

Other former church members agreed Kardel had a great reputation in the community when questioned by Swysen.

Additionally, Kardel's wife and his daughter-in-law also shared insight into the happy home life the entire family had, including alleged victims Jane Does 1 and 2, and their mother. 

Kardel's daughter-in-law testified that the defendant often invited both of his childrens' families to his Oak Hill Drive home for family gatherings on birthdays and holidays, noting that everyone had fun. 

She claimed she never had any concerns about Kardel's behavior with any of her children, nor ever noticed anything out of the ordinary.

When the defendant's wife, Jean, took the stand, Swysen began digging into the family's financial history, including Kardel's decision to buy his daughter a house on Harmony Lane in 2003. 

Kardel wanted to buy his daughter, her now ex-husband and their four children a new home in order to "get them out of their tight living situation," Jean testified.

Her husband picked a house on Harmony Lane, made the down payment of $90,000 along with mortgage, taxes and insurance and later set up a system for his daughter and her ex-husband to pay $2,000 a month in rent until they could pay a little more over the years until the home was completely paid off. 

"Then, my daughter and her husband separated, and she couldn't pay as much rent when she was alone," Jean said. "So she paid $1,500 a month, and we continued to pay the mortgage, insurance and taxes." 

Later, Kardel began discussing finding a cheaper, smaller home for his daughter and Does 1 and 2 to live in, as "there were three times in 2013 where she missed payments," Jean said. 

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"We never discussed any of the rent arrangements or eviction in front of the girls," said Jean, adding that during this time her daughter would refuse to bring Does 1 and 2 to visit over long periods of time, up to six months. 

During his testimony, Kardel confirmed that he always invited both of his children and all four of his grandchildren into his home for family gatherings, events that he described as happy times. 

Kardel also told the court how he often financially supported his children and grandchildren, whether it was paying for rent or school tuition. 

His daughter, unfortunately, had financial issues, and "was always short of money," but "we were happy to help, because we love her," Kardel testified. 

When she wanted to take classes at Hancock College to get her credentials, he and his wife would pay for it, Kardel added.

There was also a point in time where his daughter wouldn't visit unless it was to pick up money from her father. Their relationship began to suffer when his daughter stopped paying rent on the Harmony Lane home, Kardel said. 

Kardel also began to look for other ways to salvage their relationship, and his daughter's financial situation, but his daughter wouldn't agree to any of his ideas, he testified. 

Rather than evicting his daughter and granddaughters from the Harmony Lane house, "I later decided it's more important for my grandchildren to have a home," said Kardel, adding he continues to make payments to this day. 

Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. Friday in Judge John McGregor's courtroom.

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210


Courts/Public Safety Reporter