Sante and Kenneth Kimes: A Life of Crime
The Boy Slave
Imagine, for a moment, that you are Kenny Kimes Jr., born in 1975 to a mother and father who both loved to steal and con just for the thrill of it. You have a mother who smothers you with an unnaturally close form of love at an early age. Your father is drunk more often than he is sober and seems to be operated by his spouse as if he were a marionette. Your first memories are of police and investigators constantly showing up at your home to look into one shady scheme after another. Any hope of a normal life is doomed from the beginning.
Vittorio Raho, who lived next door to Kenny when his family had its Las Vegas house —the Kimeses also had homes in Hawaii, the Bahamas, and California — says that he was Kenny's "first real friend." Vittorio thought that Kenny was a wonderful companion. He used family money to buy his friendship, he thought, since Kenny often paid for both of them when they went to the movies or McDonald's. And Vittorio's dad, Benito, remembered Sante as someone who looked a lot like actress Elizabeth Taylor.
"She dressed in white all the time. With her hair and the make-up, she did look like Liz Taylor, to tell the truth," he said. Then he recalled a cruel, condescending Sante.
"She told me her son was a genius and mine wasn't, and she didn't want them together." (Author's note: When Kenny Kimes was arrested for murdering Irene Silverman, Vittorio Raho was a college graduate entering medical school.)
When Kenny couldn't find any friends in the neighborhood, his mother would hire them. In Hawaii, there was Kara Craver-Jones. "I was the hired playmate," she remembered. "He wasn't allowed to have any other friends and we had to do what his mom said, when she said it. He never talked back. She was dominant of him, of me, of everybody."
Sante trotted out an old ploy left over from her Bicentennial scam. She told Kara she was going to send her and Kenny to Russia as "youth ambassadors." Of course, it never happened.
Kara was picked up each day in a limousine to visit Kenny. From time to time, Kenny would confide in her, though he often made the stories up.
"We have Mafia troubles, but I can't talk about it," a young Kenny told his wide-eyed playmate. When Kara saw his mother's many wigs on a nightstand, Kenny made up a story on the spot. "My mother has cancer and has to go for chemotherapy treatments," he told her. The boy slave was learning: Tell a story, win sympathy, and unbalance the mark. It was a classic grifter trick.
Two strange things visitors noticed about Kenny's family were the locks and the maids. Once you were inside the house, you couldn't get out unless Sante let you out with a key. That was strange. And each house came with several Mexican maids whom Sante forced to go barefoot. Once one of them got out, and the Rahos remembered her screaming as she ran down the street until Sante captured her and brought her back.
The Kimes trio was one strange family. Everyone agreed on that.