Kevin Esterly and Allentown teen he fled to Mexico with told police their relationship was innocent

Sex Offenders & Others In Positions Of Trust, Most Wanted Sex Offenders and Others, Sex Offenders and Others On The Run, Mexico

November 1, 2018

The Morning Call


when police picked them up in March at an apartment near a Mexican resort after a two-week search, Allentown teen Amy Yu told detectives it was her idea to flee there with Kevin Esterly, the married man who accompanied her, a Lehigh County prosecutor said Thursday.

The 16-year-old told investigators she bought her own ticket to Cancun because she was running away from home. When she revealed her plans to Esterly, who had already been warned by Allentown police to stay away from the teen, he bought his own plane ticket and they flew off together March 5, Chief Deputy District Attorney Matthew Falk said.

The 46-year-old Esterly told authorities he went with Yu to protect her, while Yu told investigators he was like a father to her, Falk said. “She emphatically denied any sexual relationship with him,” he said. “And she said she was planning on going there anyway.”  In the case that sparked an international search for the two, Esterly admitted Thursday to a charge of corruption of minors, a first-degree misdemeanor that can land him behind bars for up to five years. As part of the guilty plea, two felony charges against him were withdrawn, including one that would have required him to register as a sex offender for 15 years.

During the court hearing, Falk said the prosecution had been hindered in its pursuit of the felony charges because Yu stuck with her version of events. “Quite frankly, if this had gone to trial, Amy would have appeared as a witness for the defendant,” he told Judge Maria L. Dantos.

Falk said Yu’s mother is heartbroken over the entire ordeal, which has strained the relationship with her daughter — they have not talked since the teen returned from Mexico. On the return trip to Allentown, Yu told police “she would rather be dead” than be back at her mother’s house, Falk said. Yu is living at a home for at-risk teens, which she tried to escape from this summer.  Andrew Bench, Yu’s attorney, said the teen was happy the felony charges were dropped, calling them a “rush to judgment” and “wrong and shameful.”

Esterly, formerly of Lowhill Township, apologized for what he did, but continued to contend his relationship with Yu was innocent, that of a protective father. “I made a bad decision,” he said about the trip to Mexico, using cash taken from his wife and Yu's mother. Esterly said Yu was going through a volatile relationship with her mother starting in the summer of 2017, so he would try to include her in activities with his family. Esterly and his family have known Yu for about eight years, meeting her through church, and often took her on vacation with them.

But in February, the girl’s mother, Miu Luu, discovered Esterly was signing her daughter out of her Northampton County charter school, and Luu became upset because he did not have authority or permission to do that. School officials encouraged her to contact police and they discovered he had done it 10 times between November and February, posing as her stepfather. A week later, Esterly and his now-estranged wife went to Luu's home in Allentown where they created a disturbance and police warned them not to return to the home.

In court Thursday, Esterly tried to explain that he would pick Yu up from school on his way home from work to take her to get her learner’s permit, to cheerleading practice at Allen High School and once on a Christmas trip to an indoor water park in the Poconos with his family. He added that Yu was the one who put him down as an emergency contact at the school because the teen did not feel that her mother cared about her. “We thought she was aware of everything,” Esterly said about Yu’s mother.

Esterly said Yu told him she would translate to her mother, who speaks limited English. “When you say Amy is like one of your children, that’s not true, is it? ... You didn’t take them out of school secretly” Dantos, who will sentence Esterly on Dec. 10, did not find Esterly’s explanations believable. “If it is as innocent as you want us to believe, why didn’t you clear that with her mother?” Dantos asked about going to Mexico with Yu. “Why did you not stay away from her when police told you?

“When you say Amy is like one of your children, that’s not true, is it?” Dantos continued. “You didn’t take them out of the country. You didn’t take them out of school secretly. I’m fairly certain you know where I’m going with this.” Esterly told the judge that he wished he could fix everything. Dantos said she wants Esterly to think about his responses the next time they see each other for sentencing.

“I’m not asking you to fix anything, I’m asking for the truth and the truth is not what you just told me,” she said. Yu’s mother appeared briefly in court, but did not say anything. She’s expected to testify, through a translator, during sentencing, as is Esterly’s estranged wife. Bench, Yu’s court-appointed lawyer, said he expects Yu to be subpoenaed for the sentencing. Attorney Everett Cook, who represents Luu in a federal lawsuit against Esterly, said he still believes the relationship between the teen and Esterly was not as innocent as he portrayed. “I believe as counsel for the mom that there was a sexual component between Kevin and Amy,” he said. “It is terrible that he has ruined the relationship between mom and daughter.”