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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Molestation Suspect Held After Standoff

Crime: The Simi Valley man, whose wife runs a day-care center, apparently learned he was the subject of a police investigation and threatened suicide.

March 07, 2001|TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SIMI VALLEY — The husband of a home day-care operator was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of molestation after threatening suicide and holding police at bay, authorities said.

Kenneth Niedert, whose wife, Billie, operates Niedert Family Child Care in the 4000 block of Helene Street, threatened to shoot himself before surrendering to Simi Valley police, officials said.

Niedert, 63, was being held in East County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail on suspicion of two felony sex acts, authorities said. No arraignment date has been set.

Police recovered a .38-caliber revolver from the Niederts' house, officials said.

Niedert apparently learned Monday evening that he was the target of an investigation by Simi Valley detectives. Early Tuesday, a relative of Niedert's called police to say the retired electrician had threatened to shoot himself.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday March 8, 2001 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
Molestation suspect--The Times on Wednesday incorrectly reported the first name of a Simi Valley man arrested on suspicion of child molestation. He is Kenyon Niedert.

Officers evacuated homes in a square-block radius and had several conversations with Niedert before he surrendered about 10 a.m., nearly two hours after the incident began.

As investigators questioned Niedert on Tuesday morning, other detectives were talking to children who attend the facility or had attended the day-care center in the past, said Sgt. Ron Chambers, a detective on the case.

He said the investigation is focusing on more than one child enrolled in the day-care center. "We have so many potential interviews to do," he said.

Chambers would not say who made the allegations.

The facility has maintained an operating license since 1984, said John Gordon, a spokesman for the state Department of Social Services.

In 1994, the day-care center was ruled out of compliance for having too many children under the age of 6, Gordon said, but it passed its most recent inspection in June.

The facility is licensed to care for up to 14 children, he said.

The allegations have prompted an investigation by state social service officials, Gordon said.

Attempts to reach Billie Niedert were unsuccessful.

Before the standoff, Billie Niedert called neighbor Brian Pedigow, telling him not to bring his 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter to the facility that day.

A short time later, Pedigow got a call from a Simi Valley detective asking him to bring his children in for questioning about the allegations.

Pedigow said detectives interviewed each child separately and told him they intended to question each child currently enrolled.

Pedigow said he got along well with Kenneth Niedert. "You couldn't ask for a nicer neighbor," he said.

Other neighbors said Kenneth Niedert is always quick to lend a hand with minor electrical problems.

Niedert had health problems in the past year, though, and his ability to do handyman work became limited, said Hilda Hardison, who lives behind the Niedert's house.

In recent months, she saw him helping out his wife and playing with the children, she said.

"I could hear them with the kids," she said. "They built them little houses to play in."

A man who told police he was a nephew of Niedert spoke briefly with the retired electrician as he sat in the back of a patrol car at the house.

"He's a great guy," said the man, who refused to give his name. "He seemed to be doing fine, helping all the neighbors. I hate this."

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