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Attorneys in the case of a retired Santa Maria businessman on trial for molesting his grandchildren began opening statements Wednesday, with the defense denying all accusations and the prosecution arguing the alleged abuses spanned a decade.

Hans Jorgen Kardel, 84, faces several counts of sexual penetration with a child under the ages of 10 and 14; aggravated sexual assault of a minor; lewd/lascivious acts with a child under 14; sexual penetration by a foreign object; and attempting to dissuade a witness. 

Defense attorney Catherine Swysen is representing Kardel, with Deputy District Attorney Fabiana Fede prosecuting the case and Judge John McGregor presiding. 

Fede told jurors Wednesday that Kardel repeatedly molested both girls when they were younger than 10 in his home, when nobody was around. He also allegedly attempted to dissuade his daughter from reporting him to police, promising to buy one of the girls a car, and said, "If this gets out, it'll be a tragedy."

Fede presented a timeline of events beginning on Nov. 9, 2015, when the alleged victims' mother (Kardel's daughter) went to pick up her younger daughter, Jane Doe, 1, from Lakeview Junior High School.

"Doe 1 said she had a class that day where there was a Rape Crisis Center presentation, which brought back memories," Fede said. "When her mother asked what happened, she began to cry."

Her mother began going down a list of people, asking if any of them touched Doe 1. When she stopped at Kardel, she reportedly said "yes."

Later that day, she went to Orcutt Academy to pick up Doe 1's older sister, Jane Doe 2, and asked if Kardel ever molested her, which she affirmed. Law enforcement then began investigating the allegations, followed by a forensic interview at Marian Regional Medical Center with counselor Yvonne Nelson. 

In the course of the investigation, Doe 1 recalled multiple incidents where Kardel allegedly abused her over a course of one year, once in his bedroom at his Oakhill Drive home and in the bedroom closet. Kardel would reportedly penetrate her vagina with his finger, "made her kiss him, and even once made her be a lookout while he abused her older sister," Fede said. 

Doe 1's older sister, Jane Doe 2's abuse began when she was younger than 10, Fede claimed. Kardel would often host barbecues, pizza nights and family gatherings at his home, where the two girls, their mother, cousins, uncle and aunt would be present. 

While the adults were in the home preparing for one of their barbecues, Kardel reportedly asked Doe 2 to get firewood for the pit near the shed behind the house, Fede said. Karden allegedly shut the door of the shed and began touching her breast, vagina and made Doe 2 touch his penis. 

The girls also helped with yard work for money, Fede continued. When Kardel would give money to the girls to put in their envelopes, which he kept in his upstairs bedroom, he'd reportedly molest them when nobody was around. The abuse reportedly occurred repeatedly over the course of a decade, between 2005 and 2015. 

The girls' mother called Kardel twice, both of which were recorded by law enforcement, unknown to Kardel. During the second call, Kardel admitted that "it was simply [Jane Doe 2]," and agreed that he did touch her vagina. 

"He admits it's wrong, but that Doe 2 encouraged it, and he never forced it," Fede told the jury. "He said Satan was trying to bring him down, and tells the girls' mother that 'if it gets out it's going to ruin everyone.'" He later began leaving voicemails for the girls' mother, expressing remorse for what he did to Doe 2, and offered to buy her a car, Fede claimed. 

In defense of Kardel, Swysen asked jurors to keep an open mind, and pointed out that the extended delay between the alleged incidents and the girls' disclosure of the abuse was distorted. She also implied that Kardel's daughter began pursuing a case against him due to their home rent situation. 

"Doe 1 didn't accuse him until four years after it occurred," Swysen said. Furthermore, the girls weren't interviewed by specialists until 11 days after their disclosure, she said. In addition, during that second phone call between the girls' mother and Kardel, Kardel consistently maintained that nothing sexual ever occurred between himself and the girls. 

"The Kardel family is pretty typical," said Swysen, who painted his home life as a happy one, where he and all of his children and grandchildren would gather for birthdays and parties, all around the time the accusations surfaced. 

Just a month before the alleged abuse was disclosed, the relationship between the girls' mother and Kardel became complex and strained, Swysen argued. Most of the problems revolved around the home where Doe 1 and 2 lived with their mother. Kardel and his wife owned the home, and Kardel's daughter would pay them rent. 

"Some rent was missed, which created tension," Swysen said. 

The defense attorney also maintained Kardel's character in the community. 

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"You'll hear about his reputation and character," Swysen said. "We ask you to listen to the evidence, consider all of it and find him not guilty beyond reasonable doubt."

Both Jane Doe 1 and 2 testified Wednesday, and both recalled not knowing about each other's experiences until November 2015. Doe 2, now 18, who testified first, said the abuse began when she was 8 up until her sophomore year of high school.

Doe 2 explained that she never told anyone about the abuse before because she was embarrassed, scared they'd lose their home and that it felt like everything was her fault.

"I didn't think anyone would believe me," she said, noting that it would look wrong accusing a man "who did good deeds and went to church."

Under Swysen's questioning, Doe 2 said Kardel never threatened to take away their home or dissuaded her from telling her mother.

In her testimony, Doe 1, now 15, only recalled one time where Kardel touched her vagina, during a game of hide-and-seek with her grandfather when she was about 5, and also witnessed him touching Doe 2 in his closet.

During another incident, the three were in one of the downstairs bedrooms. Kardel had Doe 2 lying on a bed with him and told Doe 1 to "watch for when mom's coming home." 

Under Swysen's questioning, Doe 1 admitted she never witnessed exactly what the two were doing under the covers. She also said Kardel touched her once, not multiple times.

Testimony resumes at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Santa Maria Superior Court.

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

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Courts/Public Safety Reporter