This timeline represents only the most well-documented litigation and related incidents involving Kanakuk Kamps and former staff members. It is likely — and not uncommon in sexual assault cases — that many more claims have been settled confidentially and the details effectively hidden through non-disclosure agreements and similar contract clauses demanded by Kanakuk Kamps.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of John Doe XII alleging sexual assault is filed against former Kanakuk Kamps Director Pete Newman, currently serving two life sentences plus 30 years in Missouri state prison for sexual crimes. Newman is known to have abused more than 50 Kanakuk campers prior to his conviction in 2010.
Kanakuk remains open despite the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in 82 campers contracting the disease within three days. The camp made few public statements about the outbreak, and its communications office did not respond to multiple news media interview requests.
Two civil lawsuits are filed in Missouri on behalf of John Doe X and John Doe XI, alleging sexual abuses and negligence against Pete Newman.
A Texas family notes in the obituary of a former camper that he was a survivor of Kanakuk Kamps abuse.
Joe White receives The Missourian Award, “a prestigious award acknowledging the most accomplished citizens of Missouri.”
A $20 million judgment is awarded In the Doe IX case, making it the top plaintiff’s judgment in Missouri for that year.
A lawsuit, Doe IX v. Kanakuk Heritage Inc., is filed in Missouri state court alleging multiple instances of sexual abuse by Pete Newman and subsequent cover-ups by Kanakuk leadership.
At a Liberty University Convocation, Kanakuk Kamps CEO Joe White emotionally details an interaction with a rape victim in which he says his conversation with her allowed her to regain her purity and virginity. In the same speech, he also describes a man who had been incestuously abused by his father and encourages listeners to forgive their abusers to be freed from resentment.
A claim of child sexual assault originally filed in federal court in Texas in 2011 against Kanakuk Kamps on behalf of a John Doe and Jane Doe is settled, and all related documents are sealed.
A lawsuit is filed in Missouri state court by a John Doe and his parents alleging sexual abuse by Kanakuk Kamps.
A claim against Kanakuk Kamps for sexual abuse is filed in Texas federal court by John Doe III.
Former Kanakuk Kamps counselor Lee Bradberry pleads guilty to two Class B felonies of first-degree child molestation, a Class D felony of sexual misconduct involving a child under 15, and an unclassified felony of first-degree attempted statutory sodomy with a person under 14 years old. He is sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Paul Kerr, former Kanakuk counselor hired in 1998, pleads guilty to felony sex assault of a child, as well as two other misdemeanor charges in Colorado state court.
Joe White testifies that he had thought Newman’s nudity with children, such as naked basketball, was “improper,” “immature” and “inappropriate.” He states that he “never considered that Pete may be dangerous around kids.”
Kanakuk Kamps releases its first written policy on preventing sexual abuse, 19 years after materials to educate staff were readily available and more than 23 years after the “Camp Directors Guide: Preventing Sexual Exploitation of Children” was published by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Ed Ringheim, a former K-1 counselor and volunteer for K-Life Orlando, is charged with eight felony counts of sexual assault and sentenced to 15 years in Florida state prison.
A Missouri judge issues a restraining order against Kanakuk Kamps President Joe White to stop him from contacting a sexual abuse victim with unwanted letters, phone calls, emails, and care packages.
The first civil lawsuits against Kanakuk and former Kanakuk Kamps Director Pete Newman alleging sexual abuse are filed on behalf of a Jane Doe and John Doe in Texas federal court.
Pete Newman receives two life sentences plus 30 years in Missouri state prison based on multiple counts of statutory sodomy and child enticement involving child abuse on Kanakuk property.
Threatened with outside legal action, Newman writes a confession letter. Kanakuk leadership then confronts Newman, who initially reveals about 15 names of boys he had abused. They confiscate his laptop, terminate his employment and send him home. Signed statements by three Kanakuk leaders involved make no mention of promptly contacting law enforcement or legal authorities.
In a signed statement, White admits he knew of Newman’s naked hot tub sessions, mutual masturbation, and nude running through the camp with minors but again, made no mention of having contacted law enforcement or legal authorities about these incidents.
Kanakuk leaders contact some victim families and tell them they learned about Newman’s abuse because of a tip from a hotline. Joe White begins an “apology tour,” flying privately to visit victims’ families in person and showering them with gifts, including free camp tuition, hunting trips, iPads, Disney World vacations and fruit baskets.
Following Newman’s termination and confession of child sexual abuse, White sends an email to Kanakuk families that stated Newman “is dealing with a personal family crisis” while asking them to respect his privacy and “keep [Newman] in your prayers.”
Newman continues grooming and abusing campers. The abuse includes encouragement of and participation in nude swimming, basketball, and four-wheeling; exposure and inspection of genitalia; “one-on-one” sleepovers; mutual masturbation sessions; oral sex; and sodomy — all occurring while he is representing Kanakuk and promoted within its ranks.
Parents and campers regularly report to Joe White and other camp leaders about incidents of Newman’s nudity with campers. Kanakuk leadership reacts in various ways, including visiting families to get more information and disallowing some reporting parents’ children to return to camp.
Despite policies forbidding “any degree of sexual contact” between staff members and campers, “any evidence of homosexual behavior,” “laying on a Kamper’s bed day or night” and “nude games,” Kanakuk Kamps does not terminate Newman or report him to law enforcement but instead takes the following actions:
- Warns Newman that his “one-on-one” sleepovers with boys could destroy Joe White’s ministry Counsels Newman about “kid time” and advises him to show restraint
- Has Newman sign a probationary agreement acknowledging his sexual improprieties with young boys but continues to allow him to interact with children
- Sends Newman for psychological evaluation but cancels his evaluation and any further counseling sessions once the psychologist indicates Newman’s behavior is potentially reportable
- White sends Newman to meet with an attorney for training on the legal implications of sexual misconduct, conversations protected under attorney-client privilege
- White instructs Newman’s supervisor to stress to Newman “how important it is that he spends the next six months with [Newman’s wife] and less time with children”
During this time, Newman is promoted to director of K-Kountry. He is prominently featured on the Kanakuk Kamps website and in camp videos and written materials. He represents Kanakuk Kamps on recruitment trips and leads father-son retreats. White purchases Newman a lot for his home near Kanakuk Kamps, which includes a fireman’s pole and a hot tub.
Newman is encouraged to host additional para-camp ministries, often one on one or in small groups, including his “hot tub Bible studies,” a practice he talks about in Kanakuk speeches and often uses as a location for abuse.
In a written testimonial, White writes: “A weekend with Pete will build a father-son relationship that will never be the same.”
Joe White’s private pilot, Robert John Morgan, who flies him to speaking engagements and medical appointments, is indicted on charges of sodomizing a female victim under the age of 14.
While Morgan awaits trial, White invites him to live on Kanakuk property. White testifies to a judge prior to sentencing that he would have no problem allowing the man to babysit his own children and encourages the judge not to imprison Morgan.
Morgan is convicted and sentenced to 10 years for statutory sodomy.
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby publicly endorses Kanakuk’s Kids Across America camp for “urban youth,” stating “Kids Across America is doing what needs to be done with kids, and you need to become part of this place too.”
Relying on an incomplete application without references and no background check, Pete Newman is hired as a Kanakuk Kamps counselor at age 19.
Soon afterward, he begins a 14-year history of sexual crimes with male campers.
Former Kanakuk Kamps staff member Corbie Dale Grimes is fired for sexual misconduct with campers but is not reported to law enforcement. As a result, Grimes goes on to work in youth ministry, is caught abusing children as a youth pastor at another institution, and is ultimately convicted in 2002.