Trial begins for former Huntington Beach man accused of rapes in 1990s

Orange County Superior Court's Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
Kevin Michael Konther is charged with two counts each of rape and forcible oral copulation of a victim and single counts each of forcible lewd act on a child and lewd or lascivious acts with a minor, all felonies. In opening statements in a Santa Ana courtroom Wednesday his attorney claimed Konther is not to blame, his twin brother is.
(File Photo )

Two decades ago, a 57-year-old Huntington Beach man raped a 9-year-old girl and a woman jogger in south Orange County and years later assaulted the 12-year-old daughter of his live-in girlfriend, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday, while the defendant’s attorney said the real culprit was her client’s identical twin.

Kevin Michael Konther is charged with two counts each of rape and forcible oral copulation of a victim and single counts each of forcible lewd act on a child and lewd or lascivious acts with a minor, all felonies. He also faces a sentencing enhancement for multiple victims.

“It was dark. She was alone and she was almost home,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Juliet Oliver said of the 9-year-old girl as she returned from a walk to Sav-On, where she bought a notepad and mechanical pencils, on Oct. 21,1995.

The girl was grabbed at about 6:40 p.m. after she had convinced her mother to let her go to the drugstore to buy a magazine, Oliver said. She was dragged into a wooded area in Serrano Creek Park in Lake Forest.

“Don’t say anything or I’ll stab you,” the attacker told the girl, according to Oliver.

“Her attacker put his hand on her mouth and forced her into an embankment,” Oliver said. Even though she said she was 9 years old he continued attacking her, the prosecutor said.

He forced the girl to take off her clothes and raped her, Oliver said. He demanded she tell him her address and warned her if she told anyone he would “hurt her,” Oliver continued.

After she was raped the girl ran home nude, covering herself with the notepad and pencils, Oliver said. She told her mother what happened and authorities were called but sheriff’s deputies could not find a suspect, the attorney said.

Investigators collected evidence from a forensic medical exam and created a composite sketch of the suspect from the girl’s description.

On June 2, 1998, a 31-year-old woman was jogging in Mission Viejo on a trail near El Toro Road and Marguerite Parkway when she saw a man running parallel to her, Oliver said.

“She saw the male come down and almost cut her off,” Oliver said. The man sprinted ahead of her and she “didn’t see him again until about a mile later” when he emerged from some bushes, jogging behind her.

“He came out of the bushes and started yelling” at her, Oliver said, adding that the attacker dragged the victim down into an embankment and raped her.

The victim “thought that was going to be the end of her life,” so even as he pressed his hands around her neck she attempted to talk to him to calm him, Oliver said.

When the man finished attacking her he ran off, leaving her clothes in a pile, Oliver said.

The woman could not find one of her shoes and decided to leave it so it would provide investigators a precise location of the crime scene when they found it, Oliver said. The victim ran to a road and flagged down help.

The Orange County Crime Lab had worked up a DNA profile of the 9-year-old victim’s attacker and when investigators compared evidence in that case they found a match in the woman’s suspect, Oliver said. But they still had no name of a suspect.

In 2018, the cold case was reopened and Sgt. Jason Perez of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department took the DNA evidence and uploaded it to a genealogical website, where he found some cousins related to the suspect, according to court records.

From there, Perez and FBI investigators narrowed down suspects to Konther and his identical twin, Stephen, according to court records.

Perez collected trash from the twins that was also tested for DNA matches.

Perez also investigated a dispute between Konther and the daughter of his live-in girlfriend in 2003. The daughter, who was 18 or 19 at the time, said she was accosted in 1999, Oliver said, adding that Konther, his girlfriend and the girl lived together in Huntington Beach and Highland.

“The defendant would walk into her room naked and stand uncomfortably close to her,” Oliver said. “She would pretend to be asleep ... On many of these occasions he would pull down her clothes and stare at her.”

As investigators were trying to determine which brother had assaulted the victims they arrested both and put them together in the same vehicles where their conversations were recorded, Oliver said. There is also audio of the two talking while awaiting to be jailed in Huntington Beach, she added.

“There is no shock, there is no sorrow” from Kevin Konther, Oliver said, but his brother was outraged and “very upset” about police arresting him and kicking in his door.

Kevin Konther “knew exactly why he was arrested,” Oliver said. “You will hear him describe how he knows because it was DNA ... He just hopes it’s not related to the 9-year-old girl.”

Defense attorney Jessica Ann Sweeny of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office said, “Kevin didn’t do it. He’s not guilty.”

She added, “I’m confident what you will not hear from in this case is from Stephen.”

When investigators questioned Kevin Konther about the DNA match, “He was actually cooperative and gave a DNA sample,” Sweeny said.

He did so in the belief it would “exonerate him,” Sweeny said.

The defense attorney said a “disgruntled ex-girlfriend” is the source of allegations about the third victim.

When the twins were growing up, Stephen was “treated better” and Kevin was the “black sheep,” Sweeny said.

Stephen Konther went on to a career in a hospital and Kevin was a garage door repairman, Sweeny said.

“Kevin was not the one who committed these crimes — Stephen did,” Sweeny said.

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