Redemption Song

Twenty years ago, Ken Lamberton seduced one of his junior high students. Here's what's happened since

Gravel crunches under Ken Lamberton's sneakers as he follows the Yetman Trail near the Tucson Mountains west of the city on a clear, cold morning in early January. Lamberton glances up and pauses. Above him, a large bird flies in circles. He identifies it as a red-tailed hawk and gives a quick lesson on how to spot one.

With his salt-and-pepper hair, soft voice, and curious eyes, Lamberton resembles a science teacher on a field trip. When he pauses again later in the hike to explain how the nearby mountains were created by an ancient volcano, it's easy to picture him in front of a classroom talking about fault lines.

"In one place they say it was like a thousand feet thick. Molten ash covering all these square miles," he says. "Kinda makes you feel puny."

David Hollenbach
Karen and Ken Lamberton 


Lamberton
Kathryn Schuessler
Karen and Ken Lamberton Lamberton

In fact, Ken Lamberton was once a science teacher.

He's also a convicted child molester.

Lamberton served a dozen years in prison after he seduced a student and left town with her. He was 26. She was 14 — even younger, when they first became involved. This month marks the 20th year since the crime.

A lot has changed. Twenty years ago, no one had heard of Mary Kay Letourneau, another teacher who bedded a student (she even bore the 12-year-old's baby) and became a quasi-celebrity in the pages of People magazine. And these days, Hollywood considers teacher-student romance fodder for satire instead of drama — in Election, Reese Witherspoon has an affair with a teacher, and she comes off as the creepy one, instead of the other way around. (Although that guy does lose his job.) Only a pervert with a twist in his tale, like Neil Havens Rodreick — the 29-year-old recently caught in rural Arizona masquerading as a preteen — grabs the spotlight the way Ken Lamberton did 20 years ago.

Around town, people still talk about the Mesa teacher who ran off with his student, a case described in a New Times story at the time as a "tragedy of obsession and betrayal."

Since he first went to jail in 1987, Lamberton has written two books about life in prison. He tells his personal story through nature and metaphor.

But in Lamberton's third prison book — to be published later this year by the University of Arizona press — he faces his crime and its consequences head on. In the book, tentatively titled Time of Grace, Lamberton gives the reader an in-depth look at his life in prison and the struggle to rebuild his marriage.

Though his is certainly not a household name, Lamberton has achieved relative success with his books and is generating interest in literary circles.

He recently won a grant from the Open Society Institute, a group sponsored by George Soros, the millionaire known for personally funding the education of black university students in Cape Town, South Africa, during apartheid and, closer to home, pro-marijuana initiatives in Arizona and other states.

There's no doubt Lamberton is talented, but it's interesting that he's building his post-prison career on the fact that he can write eloquently about his crime.

Lamberton's case is complicated. In some ways, he doesn't fit the mold of the teacher gone bad. He says he doesn't — didn't — lust after teenage girls. Just one — whom he loved, he says, adding that the student, Kelly Gregan, loved him back.

But the fact is, this isn't a story about two teenagers in love. It's about a grown man with a family, and a girl experiencing powerful feelings, at a very early age, for a man in a position of authority.

Gregan, now a family law attorney in San Diego, did not respond to e-mails or phone calls to comment for this story. Her parents are both dead, and her sister, Maureen, who is also her attorney, did not return a call for comment.

The last time Gregan spoke publicly about Lamberton was in 1986, when she was 14. She told the Arizona Republic, "I was used, emotionally and physically. I think he should be put away for as long as possible."

Gregan didn't talk for this story, but Lamberton did. He gave New Times a copy of his forthcoming book; only his editors, close friends, and family have seen it. He spent hours talking about the past, present and future, and so did his wife and children. Hundreds of pages of court records were reviewed for this story, including the letters Ken and Kelly wrote to each other 20 years ago.

Ken Lamberton's crime itself is just the beginning of a complex story. It's what came afterward that's truly unusual: His wife and daughters never left him, and he now has a good relationship with all of them. Still, some of the wounds he inflicted continue to bleed and will likely never stop.

The media plays up the sensation of a sex crime right after it happens — the offense, the trial, the conviction — but the story fades with the next month's scandal. If you live in a neighborhood a sex offender moves into, you'll get a notice in your mailbox. Outside of that, we tend to forget about the Ken Lambertons of the world.

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21 comments
Mike
Mike

I think it's absurd that consensual sex with teenagers is in any way linked to "molestation". I am from Canada, where the age of consent is 14, as it is in most of Europe.What happens in the US regarding "sex offenses" with willing teens is regarded in the civilized world the same way as the Taliban stoning a woman for adultery or stoning homosexuals---both "sex offenses".

JC
JC

As a former classmate of Kelly's, I can say that I see both sides of the story. Kelly knew what she was doing when she entered into the relationship. I know people will say that she was too young to know, but that is NOT the case here. While I don't think that Mr. Lamberton should have NEVER have allowed it to go as far as it did. He should have reported the story to an administrator in the school and addressed it directly with Kelly as being inapporpriate.

Yes, Kelly has moved on with her life, she had counseling, she has a strong family who loves her, but she also needs to be held accountable for her actions and her role in the situation.

So does Mr. Lamberton, as shown by his wife and daughters sticking by him. He paid for his crimes, he has moved on with his life as well, in a different way.

I say it's time to let the situation rest...for everyone involved.

Just Saying
Just Saying

I just read a letter via the internet to the new times from Candi Kane. Here is a portion of what she wrote:

-Yet where is the accountability of underage people wearing sexy clothes and throwing themselves at adults? Isn't that seduction, too? It seems to even be okay if teenagers under the age of 18 have sex with each other, but not if one is 18 years old and falls prey to some "innocent" little victim.-

It is unreal that people do not realize the victim was 13/14 years old & he was in his mid/late 20's. He was a trusted adult teacher she was a child student. If she was walking around naked. This teacher should have not SEDUCED (better word Prey)on this CHILD. It is common knowledge that many pre-teens want to dress & act older. Many have crushes on their teachers. Most teachers/adults have the sense not to take advantage of a child & have no desire to do so.

Candi Kane regarding your Grandmother & Aunt who married at 14. How much older were your Uncle & Grandfather? I hope not much older. They lived in a different era. It is the year 2007 & some have learned from the past.

Come on people. Plain & simple this child adult relationship was wrong. She WAS the innocent victim & he commited a crime.

Finally, it has been written that child molestation is over blown. I believe it is not. There are thousands of silent victims of molestation. They are either too embarassed, threatened, or tramatized to speak out.

jlb87
jlb87

1st, I hope D.K. knows what they are talking about, and I hope it isn't a former defendant. Teachers are one of the worst sex offenders, when it happens. Students and parents trust teachers. When a teacher takes advantage of that trust they should be held accountable. When the students are in K-12 and Jr. High I feel the teachers are pedafiles and should be treated as such. High school as well, although the teachers seem to get more of a break as the kids are older and teachers accuse the students of coming on to them more often. A HS teacher can do just as much damage to students and prior students. The scares are just as deep. There was a teacher at my high school who made passes at female students and even married a former student from 2 years prior. he always had the reputation of the teacher who had sex with students but the admin ignored the signs and rumors. Maybe admin and other teachers who choose to ignore the "reputation" of another teacher need to be held accountable for something as well. Year after year students aren't just spreading rumors. And now Mesa schools should know this....

bcee
bcee

How sick is this. To romanticise a child molester. His wife makes funny comments like "You could of had four wives" when he has 3 daughters and more than likely has molested them. Pedophiles do not discriminate! This is very sick. The writer evidently has no daughters. I warn those girls, do not let Grandpa hold your baby daughters!!

D.K.
D.K.

Just saying, I think thats more of a sign of his guilt and remorse. People want those who commit these crimes to live with the guilt for the rest of their lives.

This one clearly is.

D.K.
D.K.

Renee, I agree that it is a bit tacky to be bringing this up. I hope that the victim was consulted before this was published and agreed to it.

There is an underlying reason for more and more stories like this in the media. As Gallowsman pointed out, sex offender hysteria has swept the nation. It would be one thing if the laws, legislation and vigilantism were confined to a certain group of offenses. But they have all long since passed that and have encompassed a huge array of people convicted of everything even remotely connected to sex.

When you say ' Sex Offender ', the vast majority of the grossly uninformed public automatically thinks of a guy in a trenchcoat hiding in the bushes at a schoolyard waiting for a little girl to walk by so he can grab her and stuff her into his windowless van. And with this image and criminal who wouldn't want him to suffer in prison for the rest of their life.

But the flaw is that is crimes and criminals like this are the rare exception, not the rule. They always have been. The registry and residency restrictions and bright green license plates and GPS monitoring are all based off of this faulty perception of sex crimes.

This has happened mostly because of a small number of psyco pedophiles out there that have grabbed the public's and politician's attention. In the tidal wave of emotion, ( mostly justified ) the politicians have used broad and sweeping laws as rafts to ride the public opinion to headlines.

Now people who would never molest a child, never molested anyone , are subject to the same scorn, humiliation, and discrimination as a repeat molester.

Just saying
Just saying

Hmmm. I think Kelly Gregan & her Family not commenting IS speaking out loud and clear. They have moved on (hopefully healed) & finished with that chapter of their lives. Ken Lamberton seems still consumed with the ordeal & his victim. Sad.

Renee
Renee

Wow. "Redemption Song?"As a victim of child molestation, I feel the need to comment.Why does guy want to still be in the public eye after 20 years? Why does he want to poor salt in open old wounds for the victim? I assume she does not want to reminisce about that part of her life, especially if she has a family now. Writing is therapy for him, okay. Why do it in public? He should write in a journal or in letters to his wife! If he had any remorse or be decent human being he would decline on public comments or writings.

In the article it mentioned she dressed "grown up". It disgusts me when I hear comments that a child dressed mature or acts older for their age. At 13 or 14 most girls want to be older. They are not asking for a teacher or other so called responsible safe adults to seduce & molest. What about self-control or morals? He stole this victim innocence away.

What about this quote. ~~Sometimes the only way to ease the tension is to joke. When a conversation about Gregan gets too intense, Karen says, "You know, it's really too bad for Ken he was born in this culture. He could have had, like, four wives."~~Maybe it is just me. But I don't think it is funny.

Yes, I am judging Ken Lamberton. As a child molestation victim...I earned the right.

Gallowsman
Gallowsman

JJ. My point was that everytime an Ex-Sex Offender takes a breath there are ten news articles covering it, fifteen laws passed trying to say where he can and can't take that breath, and every one "blogging" on trying to find a way to stop them from breathing at all. Yet I would venture to say not one of you here know or even care how many children were killed and injured that same day by guns, drugs, and alcohol nor willing to do anything about it. This man paid his debt according to the law at the time of his conviction. Many are unhappy with this result and want another "pound of flesh" and are getting it "Ex Post Facto". What people don't understand is eventually they will become the "subject" of these laws in a "modified" form. History tells us this: "There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws." --Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, Ch. III, "White Blackmail"

JJ
JJ

Gallowsman,

I care tremendously about children. I have a few myself. No child should ever be killed by guns, drugs or alcohol but the subject of this story is about Ken Lamberton and the way he deceived a young girl and sexually abused her and how people think he should be accepted because he has "done his time."I will disagree that Lamberton should be accepted back into society. A sexual predator does not stop being a sexual predator just because they did prison time. I would never trust him around my children or any other children. He is a sexual predator and will be until the day he dies.Any parent who has children should never leave them alone when this man is around. I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him.

Gallowsman
Gallowsman

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report reveals that 2,827 children and teens died as a result of gun violence in 2003 and 12,000+ injured. Why is no one here screaming for the banishment and outlawing of guns to protect children? They do ten times the damage to our children and families as Sex Offenders but not one of you care about those children do you! A child killed by a gun is tragic, but however you feel it is acceptable. I won't even go into Alcohol and Drugs which kill and injure more children than Guns and Sex Offenders put together. Too bad children with a bullet threw the head is not as "valuable" as one molested. Dead get nothing. Molested gets votes. Get it? It about the votes, not the kids. If is was you would have to give up your guns. Or is your gun more important than a child?

"The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation." (Adolph Hitler (Mein Kampf))

DK
DK

What about the 15 yr old girl who is in a wheelchair the rest of her life after a speeder hits the car she was in? The speeder gets out of jail and goes on with his life, the poor girl is in a wheelchair the rest of her life.

When you start talking about victims, remember that while victims of sexual abuse suffer greatly, so do victims off all sorts of other crimes that there is no registry and tacking of the offenders. I don't think that an abuser should get off scottfree by any means. This individual not only served time, but was let out for a month or two, and then put back in after tasting freedom.

I know that there are huge discrepencies with victim's rights and restitution. But that is something to take out on the politicians who make the rules. Not the ones subject to them.

BCZ
BCZ

In answer to your question JJ, no where in the bible does it say that to abuse a child is "ok." Then again no one on this page is saying that what he did was "ok." He commited a crime, did the time he was sentenced to and now he is getting on with his life. Where in the bible does it say his sin is beyond redemption or forgiveness?

Regarding his victim, she has been silent on the subject for 21 years so I will not presume to know what she feels about it.

JJ
JJ

What about his victim? She has to pay for the rest of her life because of what he did to her. Do you even care about what she has gone through and will continue to go through?

I thank GOD he was gone while his daughters were growing up. Who knows what he would have done to them.

Also, you never answered my previous question....Where in the bible does it say it is ok to abuse, molest and harm a child?

D.K.
D.K.

Yeah I'm going to take his side, HE PAID THE PRICE FOR HIS CRIME. How would you like it if you got a speeding ticket and could only drive a car that went 25 MPH for the rest of your life? Speeders re-offend often and put children at risk by their behavior... How far down the rabbit hole you wanna go here, pal??

They offend over and over again??

Show me a study that says that. I find it funny that that is the mantra that is repeated over and over again, and yet every study done by state and local and federal governments that I've read don't back that up.

And what about Sex Offenders that don't have a victim?

JJ
JJ

Oh, and to Mr. Gladish,

Where in the bible does it say it's ok to molest, abuse and harm a child? Where does it say it's ok to damage this child's life?

JJ
JJ

Yeah, side with the sex offender. Don't think of the VICTIM!

Sex offenders do offend over and over again. Let's all put on our blinders and let these guys do as they please....until it comes to one of our family members or friends.

I feel for his kids. This does have a lasting effect on them whether you want to believe it or not.

Shame, shame.

D.K.
D.K.

I'm so tired of listening to people scream about sex offenders. You know what people?? We have a justice system for a reason. When someone pays a debt to society they shouldn't be held accountable for the rest of their lives. I'm glad he's found a way to re-enter society. Lawmakers and alarmist seem hell bent on making everyone convicted of a sex crime homeless, jobless and penniless these days.

Oh, and by the way.. Child Molesters only make a portion of the people who are on the registry. Does someone who was caught with 1 or 2 pictures of underage porn deserve the same treatment as someone who kidnapped a child?

and don't tell me about Sex Offenders being the highest risk to reoffend. Are you impling that anyone on the registry could kidnap a child at any moment. Even the ones there of peeing on a dumpster behind Cooperstown?

Stephen B. Gladish
Stephen B. Gladish

In answer to J.J.'s words of condemnation, retribution, and punishment, I do not believe God, The Great Spirit, The Higher Power, keeps a list of all the mistakes we make. Only God can interpret the workings of a human heart and a human soul. Jesus warned us to "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement you mete to others, it shall be meted unto you." A human being is not just a list of mistakes. It's what a person does with his life following his mistakes that makes the difference. Read his books and determine the purpose and the soul of the writer and you will see no criminal thought or intent. Talk in person to the man, his wife, his three daughters, and you will see goals and accomplishments, along with spiritual and moral values, in every member of that family.I've known and worked with Ken Lamberton for two decades. He's on the up escalator to heaven along with all of us. God Bless him and his family for all they've accomplished.Leave the past behind. This is a new life.

JJ
JJ

This creep is making money off of a crime? How dare he! Every cent he makes off of the books he sells should be given to the girl he MOLESTED!Did she ever get any type of counseling? What about her life? I can understand why she won't return calls. To be used and abused by a trusting adult can leave lifetime scars on a person.He is free to do as he pleases while this woman has to live the rest of her life with what he did to her.Shame on anyone who supports the monster and shame on anyone who buys his books.He should be living out his life rotting away in prison.

 
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