A retired Santa Maria businessman accused of molesting his grandchildren for more than a decade was found guilty Monday by a Santa Maria jury on 13 felony counts relating to abuse of his now 18-year-old granddaughter.

Hans Jorgen Kardel, 84, was found guilty on six counts of lewd acts upon a child 10 years or younger; two counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object; two counts of lewd/lascivious acts upon a child and one count of oral copulation/sexual penetration with a child, all relating to abuse of the granddaughter, referred to as Doe 2. Kardel was also found guilty on one count of dissuading a witness from reporting a crime. 

The jury did not return a verdict on two counts — oral copulation/sexual penetration with a child and lewd/lascivious act upon a child — relating to the alleged abuse of Doe 1, now 15.

Deputy District Attorney Fabiana Fede, who prosecuted the case, did not comment on the verdict saying they have yet to decide whether to retry Kardel on the hung counts. The decision, she said, will be made at a later date.

Kardel was taken into custody as soon as the verdict was read Monday and is scheduled to reappear in court on April 5 for sentencing. He can face between 60 years and life in prison.

Though the victims' mother (Kardel's daughter) was disappointed the jury did not return a verdict on two of the charges, she said she hopes to begin the healing process.

"Now that it's over the girls can move on, heal and get some help," she said Monday. "We went to counseling [and] now they can talk about it." 

Kardel was arrested and charges were filed in January 2016, according to court records. He pleaded not guilty in February 2016 and was ordered to stand trial after a preliminary hearing. Jury selection began last November but was postponed due to scheduling conflicts and witness availability.

The trial began last month with defense attorney Catherine Swysen representing Kardel and Judge John McGregor presiding over the weeks-long case. Swysen did not return calls for comment Monday.

During the trial jurors heard an audio recording of Kardel admitting to touching his granddaughter's genitalia and blaming Satan for tempting him. Kardel vehemently denied the allegation, claiming that his granddaughter initiated the touching. Jury deliberation began Feb. 28.

"I just want the girls to move on and heal, I want myself to heal," their mom said. "I want everyone to move on with their lives — that's the main thing."

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210


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