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Ex-Army recruiter gets up to 60 years for sexually assaulting two minors

By COLE WATERMAN | MLive.com | Published: December 3, 2019

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (Tribune News Service) — An ex-U.S. Army recruiter who sexually assaulted two minors then tried to escape from jail will be behind bars for up to six decades.

Isabella County Circuit Judge Mark H. Duthie on Tuesday, Dec. 3, sentenced Keith C. McKern Jr., 44, to two concurrent 25-to-60-year terms in prison. Duthie gave McKern credit for 302 days already served in the county jail.

The judge sentenced McKern to a consecutive term of 16 months to two years in prison for attempting to escape from jail, with credit for 222 days already served.

McKern in October pleaded no contest to four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a relation, two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim 13 or younger, two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct using force or coercion and one count of soliciting escape while awaiting trial on a felony.

First-degree criminal sexual conduct involves penetration and is a life offense, while fourth-degree is limited to touching and is a two-year high court misdemeanor.

In exchange for McKern’s pleas, Isabella County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Alan Reimers dismissed a count of distributing child sexually abusive material. Reimers previously told MLive that McKern had moved to Michigan in January 2016 after having been stationed at Fort Knox, Ky. Reimers alleged McKern’s sexual abuse of two juveniles was ongoing since he moved to Michigan.

There are allegations McKern engaged in similarly illicit conduct while stationed in Kentucky, Reimers added.

McKern lived in Isabella County’s Union Township and most recently worked as an Army recruiter at the recruiting office at 1600 S. Mission St. in Mount Pleasant. He served three tours in Iraq and attained the rank of sergeant.

Police began investigating McKern after one of his victims told an adult of the assaults, who in turn notified authorities. The Army suspended him from his duties once he was arrested and charged in February.

While McKern was being held at the Isabella County Jail, corrections officers on April 29 discovered a plot he’d conceived to escape custody.

Isabella County Sheriff Michael Main previously said McKern’s cellmate was a jail trusty incarcerated on a probation violation. When the trusty was spotted passing contraband to a fellow inmate, officers searched him and found drawings and plans on how to escape from the building, Main has said.

“There were a couple of different options on how to get out of the building,” Main previously said. One involved faking a medical condition and another would have involved the trusty cutting a hole in the roof and lowering a rope ladder through it for McKern to climb up.

When staff confronted McKern, he claimed he merely had been bored and was making up theoretical escape plans. According to The Morning Sun, McKern also told officers he was following his military training that if captured, it is his duty to escape, if possible.

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