"Do You Want to Know the Truth?" 

Ken Allen's killers left him hog-tied on the floor. When prosecutors called it an accident, his daughter fought back

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click to enlarge Before his death, friends of Ken's worried that he was being exploited by a group of drug addicts. He insisted he was helping them recover. - COURTESY OF THE ALLEN FAMILY
  • Before his death, friends of Ken's worried that he was being exploited by a group of drug addicts. He insisted he was helping them recover.

There's still no clear answer as to whether the death of Ken Allen was murder or, as Parks has argued, the accidental byproduct of a robbery gone bad. Physical evidence from the scene remains sealed pending Schindler's trial.

It's also not clear what tactics Schindler's legal team may take at trial. Even if Robins attempts to retract her 2016 statement to police implicating Schindler, Kallen believes video footage from the house's surveillance system will put the matter to rest.

Still, the defense may dredge up exactly the sort of information about Ken that Parks claimed he was striving to suppress — that Ken was fueling Schindler's and others' drug addictions.

Those claims appear to contain some elements of truth. Ken's friends knew of his attempts at "helping" Schindler and the others beat their drug addiction, and they acknowledge that they advised him that his relationship with much younger drug addicts was, at best, unseemly — particularly when he was suing the highest-profile anti-drug warrior in the region.

And those same friends acknowledge that Ken's generosity had a compulsive quality that verged on self-abuse. "He wanted to help anybody and everybody," says Jimmy Dyer, who became one of Ken's probation clients following a DWI in 2005.

Ken had given Dyer a job painting houses, and over the next decade a friendship blossomed. But around 2014 Dyer had decided he had to stop coming by Ken's house. The issue was a heroin addict whom Ken claimed to be helping, a shifty character in his late twenties. The guy made a habit of showing up at Ken's house and office begging for cash or favors. Dyer says Ken paid the addict's rent and living expenses. Yet Ken's yard tools and appliances still seemed to be disappearing.

Ken seemed unable to confront reality, even when he had to buy back the items the young man and his friends had pawned. "He was constantly getting robbed [by them] and it didn't seem to bother him," Dyer says of Ken. "He would tell me, 'These guys are clean, they're OK.' And then the next day he would tell me, 'Well, this guy just OD'd in my bathroom and I had to bring him back to life.'"

Asking Ken to explain himself was rarely fruitful. Sunny Lim, one of Ken's business partners who co-founded a wholesale garden and home supply business in the mid-2000s, says Ken would often describe the woeful circumstances afflicting the young men he was trying to help. There were tales of family abuse, untreated mental illness and desperate poverty.

"It was his nature," Lim says. "If someone came to him in trouble, he wanted to do something to relieve whatever problem they were facing."

Jennifer Lagerhausen, who worked for Ken for fifteen years before buying one of his other side businesses, suggests that Ken may have seen the young men the same way he viewed drug-court participants, as potential success stories in the making.

"He helped a lot of kids in the past, and they would come back and visit and say thanks," she says. "No matter how bad things got, that pushed him."

According to his friends and coworkers, Ken provided financial support to at least five drug-addicted individuals over the final two years of his life, including the trio implicated in his death. None were underage, though they were far from Ken's peers. (Of the five, seventeen-year-old Schindler and his eighteen-year-old brother were the youngest.)

To his friends, Ken's unwillingness to acknowledge the addicts nodding off in his living room seemed like uncharacteristic naivete. After all, he'd worked around addicts for decades and knew their patterns of manipulation and empty promises. ("He knew everything there was to know about addiction," Crews says.) Ken's friends wondered if he was depressed or perhaps so crushed by loneliness that he would allow himself to be exploited and lied to.

But to the county government that had only recently contracted with Ken's drug treatment company, it may have looked far more nefarious, and perhaps likely that Ken knew exactly what he was doing. At the very least, it was a tawdry arrangement for a 70-year-old man.

Citing the upcoming trial — and the fact that he may be called as a witness — Lt. Jason Grellner declines to discuss his knowledge of the police investigation into Ken's allegedly abusive behavior. But when it comes to Schindler's trial, Grellner predicts Ken's actions will make the prosecutor's job harder.

"If all the information comes out at trial about his abuse of position," Grellner says, "what does that do to a jury?"

click to enlarge Kallen, photographed here with Ken after their graduation from Yale. - COURTESY OF THE ALLEN FAMILY
  • Kallen, photographed here with Ken after their graduation from Yale.

Blake Schindler's trial, scheduled to begin next month, is set to start just weeks before Wonish and Robins become eligible to make their case to a parole board for early release.

By then, Parks will have retired, and the case will fall to incoming Franklin County Prosecutor Matthew Becker, a former cop.

But in his final weeks in office, Parks still found a way to throw a new curve ball into the case. On November 27, the prosecutor filed a superseding indictment against Schindler, which included a new charge for second-degree murder. A conviction would carry a 30-year prison term and a mandatory minimum sentence of 85 percent.

It was exactly the charge Kallen had asked for in previous meetings with Parks. Yet the development is not cause for celebration; Kallen considers it both too late and too meager, and it raises the question of why Robins and Wonish were allowed to plead to involuntary manslaughter at all.

"Why in the fuck weren't Wonish and Robins re-indicted too?" Kallen asks.

To Kallen, the murder charge against Schindler comes after two years of misery in the legal system. It doesn't change the brutality of their father's death or alter the fact that what was once a childhood home was transformed into what Kallen now calls "the house of murder."

Kallen acknowledges that Schindler's future trial may uncover a darker side of what had seemed to be Ken's self-destructive sense of goodwill. But even if he had inappropriate relationships with local drug addicts, it doesn't change Kallen's feelings about his killing. Kallen also questions the legitimacy of the investigation Parks described in the recording of the 2017 meeting.

"Whatever sources are making these claims, I'm going to question their motivation," Kallen says. "And even if some of these things are true, does that mean he deserved to be murdered?"

The trial is far from the only thing that torments Kallen about their father. Kallen thinks about him growing up on a farm and realizing he was gay, building a business in Franklin County and a life on a foundation of secrets. Kallen thinks of Ken's decision to remain married, even after coming out to his wife, and then the years spent worrying about his reputation and what people were saying behind his back.

To Kallen, it seems clear that the very homophobia Ken experienced in Franklin County lives on in the heart of Parks' allegations and soft plea deals. It's a strange, vile irony: The homophobia that kept Ken scared and isolated in life — and drove Kallen to flee to California — has reached him in death, with Parks robbing him of his legacy as a pioneer in drug treatment and casting him as a pedophile who preyed on drug addicts.

That's not who Ken was, his daughter insists. And no matter what Parks' plea deals or indictments read, Kallen is certain that Wonish, Schindler and Robins murdered him.

There is a second tragedy. Trapped in Franklin County, Ken had already been suffering for a long, long time. Kallen believes he lived scared of the area's homophobia, and in the end that fear won out. He was never able to live his truth.

"It's a frustrating mystery for me, to figure out my dad," Kallen muses. "He kept so silent about who he really was, and he hid it. I believe it got him killed."

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March 25, 2020


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