An Orange County Superior Court judge has dismissed child-molestation charges against a 98-year-old Laguna Woods man after finding that he sufferers from severe dementia and may have acted unintentionally.
Kenneth Leroy Collins was 96 when arrested in March 2016 and charged with molesting two girls, then ages 10 and 11.
Described by family members as a frail World War II veteran, he spent about a week in the Theo Lacy jail and then about a month in a medical ward before an anonymous person posted his $1 million bail, his family said.
Although officials don’t keep such records, he was clearly one of the oldest inmates ever held in an Orange County jail. The Sheriff’s Department declined to reveal specifics on his housing at the time, but did say it was appropriate and well monitored.
Prosecutors had accused him of touching the girls over their clothing, masturbating and taking off his adult diapers to expose himself when they would visit his Leisure World home.
But in his Thursday ruling, Judge Gregory Jones dismissed all charges after reviewing a psychological evaluation and medical records. The judge noted that Collins, who uses a wheelchair, suffers from “severe dementia and kidney disease.”
“Given his age at the time of the commission of actual acts, the court has serious questions as to whether or not he had the requisite specific intent,” the judge said in court records.
Collins’ wife and his sister-in-law have maintained that Collins is not of proper mind and didn’t have the strength or opportunity to molest anyone.
“We’re so relieved this nightmare is over,” said his wife, Yvonne Collins, 71. “I thank the dear Lord that now when Ken dies, he’ll leave this earth as a WWII hero where he can be saluted, not as a convicted child molester.”
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Heidi Garrel, who prosecuted the case, said on Friday that the office believes it had a “viable case” but does not plan to refile charges.