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Accused molester pleads guilty

A Manchester resident charged with molesting at least six girls younger than 12 years of age — some he met while involved with youth programs at his church and some family members — pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree child molestation in Kitsap County Superior Court Monday.

Deputy Prosecutor Neil Wachter said Leonard Kent Hibbard, 61, admitted to committing the acts he was charged with in counts 1 to 4, but entered an Alford plea for the final two counts.

“For some reason, known only to the defendant and his attorney, he does not wish to concede those two counts,” Wachter said, explaining an Alford plea allows the defendant to proclaim he is not guilty, but that he believes a jury would find him guilty.

Given the strength of the prosecution’s case against him, Wachter said he was not surprised Hibbard pleaded guilty.

Hibbard was arrested March 27 following a Kitsap County Sheriff’s investigation into allegations made by a girl less than 12 years old that Hibbard fondled her on numerous occasions. The incidents with Hibbard — a friend of the girl’s family — allegedly occurred both at her home and at the Port Orchard Church of the Nazarene.

Following Hibbard’s arrest and first child molestation charge, the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office learned of at least five more potential victims.

In May, Hibbard was charged with two more counts, and on Monday, prosecutors added three more first-degree molestation charges for a total of six.

Each count is a Class A felony and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Wachter said Hibbard’s sentencing range is 12 to 16 years, but at his sentencing July 26 the prosecutor said he will recommend Hibbard receive the minimum sentence.

“That is in response to him taking responsibility and not forcing the families of these six victims to go through a trial,” Wachter said. “That’s a big deal. We have to take kids through that all the time here, and it’s never easy.”

Hibbard remains in Kitsap County Jail awaiting sentencing. He was released on $25,000 bail in April, but re-arrested after Wachter requested Judge Theodore Spearman raise the defendant’s bail to $250,000.

Hibbard, who lived in Manchester prior to his arrest, owns Hibbard Construction, and was involved with many activities, including youth programs, at the Port Orchard Church of the Nazarene on Sidney Road.

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