February 6, 2023

Sanilac County Trucker Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Transporting a Minor Across State Lines for Illegal Sex Acts

Sanilac County Trucker Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Transporting a Minor Across State Lines for Illegal Sex Acts

DETROIT – A Sanilac County trucker was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for transporting a minor across state lines to engage in unlawful sexual activity, announced United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison. 

Ison was joined in the announcement by James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

Kenneth George Zehnder, 37, of Lexington, Michigan, was sentenced by United States District Judge Terrence G. Berg. Zehnder, an interstate truck driver, pleaded guilty to taking a 15-year-old girl out of the state of Michigan with the intent to sexually assault her.

In August 2019, Zehnder took the 15-year-old girl on an interstate trucking trip, where he sexually assaulted her nearly every night. After being assaulted in the cabin of the semi-truck, the victim texted 911, and police found the truck using information she provided. Video from Zehnder’s truck showed him leaving the driver’s area of the truck at the time of the assault and later emerging from the sleeping area pulling up and buttoning his pants. Zehnder was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting the victim in Minnesota. After Zehnder’s arrest, a 12-year-old girl who Zehnder took on a different out-of-state truck trip earlier that summer also reported to police that Zehnder sexually assaulted her on numerous occasions in different states during that trip. Both minors reported that Zehnder had assaulted them for years prior to his arrest.

“This sentence holds this offender responsible for the damage and terror he inflicted on this minor. I applaud her bravery for notifying the police and bringing him to justice. This office will continue to aggressively prosecute those who seek to harm children.” U.S. Attorney Ison stated.

“The defendant in this case sexually abused his victims for years,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “Those same victims demonstrated remarkable courage, bravely reporting the crimes in the face of their abuser and helping to bring an end to the perpetrator’s abusive actions. The FBI and its law enforcement partners across the nation will continue working to protect our communities from predators like Mr. Zehnder whose actions cause incalculable damage to their young victims.”

This case was investigated by the Northeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation Crimes Task Force of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department, and the Michigan State Police, and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Rawsthorne in a cooperative effort with the Stearns County Attorney’s Office.  

Originally published at https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/detroit/news/sanilac-county-trucker-sentenced-to-30-years-in-prison-for-transporting-a-minor-across-state-lines-for-illegal-sex-acts