Prison sentence issued in sex abuse case


TRAVERSE CITY — An Interlochen woman will spend years in prison after authorities accused her of encouraging a relationship between her daughter and a registered sex offender.

Investigators said Mary Lou Burkemo, 47, learned her boyfriend — Kyle Lynn Donkers, a sex offender — grew “obsessed” with her teenage daughter and helped orchestrate a relationship between the two. This included Donkers sending revealing photographs to the girl on a phone Burkemo provided, according to court records.

Burkemo initially faced production of child sexually abusive material, using a computer to commit a crime and second-degree child abuse charges.

She accepted a plea deal and 13th Circuit Court Judge Kevin Elsenheimer sentenced her Aug. 17 to at least 60 months in prison on child sexually abusive commercial activity and third-degree child abuse charges.

“She did a horrible thing,” said Stephen Kane, Burkemo’s attorney. “Up until that point, she was a model citizen.”

Burkemo had a clean record prior to the case, which likely prompted Elsenheimer to issue the sentence within sentencing guidelines, even though the facts permitted him to exceed those recommendations, Kane said.

Court records show Burkemo realized Donkers’ interest in her daughter in 2016, but she continued her relationship with him and encouraged a relationship between Burkemo and her daughter.

“Burkemo expressed her desire to marry Donkers and remarked to him how he ‘can still have fun with her even as her dad’ just like he did before,” records state. “She once texted him that ‘just because you become her dad doesn’t mean the fun has to stop.’”

A judge in February sentenced Donkers to 160 months in prison for possession of child porn.

Burkemo’s daughter “suffered significant emotional harm” from the relationship with her mother and enrolled in mental health counseling, according to court records.

“The mother certainly exposed her daughter to the sexual abuse by Kyle Donkers,” said Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney.

“I think this was an egregious case and I think that the sentence was appropriate.”

Staff writer