Most towns have someone like Randall Hopley. A guy with below average IQ, a social misfit, scrounging out a hardscrabble existence through odd jobs, and regularly in scrapes with the law.
But during his years in the southeastern B.C. community of Sparwood, Mr. Hopley has also displayed a darker side, with several incidents involving children.
Late last summer, Mr. Hopley, a self-described loner, was headline news across the country, when he abducted three-year-old Kienan Hebert, and then, in a totally unexpected development, returned him to his home, apparently safe and sound.
On Wednesday, as a sentencing hearing for Mr. Hopley began here in B.C. Supreme Court, prosecutor Lynal Doerksen announced that he would seek a psychiatric examination of Mr. Hopley to determine whether he should be declared a dangerous offender.
Mr. Hopley has consistently denied sexually assaulting young Kienan. There is no evidence to the contrary, and he repeated his denial during a dramatic, face-to-face meeting with Paul Hebert, Kienan’s father, shortly after his arrest, just days after the abduction. A video-tape of the encounter was played in court.
The two sat facing each other in a small, windowless, bleak interrogation room. As Mr. Hebert looked at him, Mr. Hopley said, quickly: “I want you to know, I did not sexually assault your child, whatsoever.”
Mr. Hebert’s first words were equally striking.
“You have to understand, I forgive you for taking Kienan,” he told Mr. Hopley. He thanked him for his son’s safe return.
Mr. Hopley insisted that Kienan’s abduction was a statement against a woman he blames for his conviction and jailing over a bizarre, failed abduction of a 10-year-old boy in 2007. “It had nothing to do with you and your family … It was totally, 100 per cent, a protest.”
Mr. Hebert, however, urged him to accept responsibility for his actions. He noted that he was likely the only one in Sparwood to forgive Mr. Hopley. “I’m loving you. Isn’t that a better statement than revenge?”
Mr. Hopley, who turns 47 next week, was convicted in 1985 of sexually assaulting a five-year-old boy, charged but not convicted in 1999 of sexually assaulting an eight-year-old, and sentenced to 18 months for breaking and entering with intent to commit an indictable offence–the abduction of a 10-year-old–in 2007.
According to evidence read out in court, Kienan expressed no trauma over his abduction.
While local citizens and police frantically searched for the red-haired toddler, Kienan spent four days with Mr. Hopley in an abandoned, two-story building just across the provincial boundary in Alberta.
Calling his abductor Jason, Kienan told police questioners that “he was at Jason’s home, which was far away and Jason gave him food.”
Asked if anyone touched or hurt him, Kienan replied: “No.”
For his part, Mr. Hopley described a happy time with his three-year-old victim. Kienan was always laughing and smiling and playing, he told police interrogators. The two watched a lot of movies together.
“I didn’t want him to be bored … I had pretty much everything a kid would like. … He made me laugh. I cried when he was gone. … There was no Kienan any more. Just silence.”
There were many surprising revelations during the full day of evidence.
Initially, said Mr. Hopley, he was going to take Kienan’s brother Calub. But as he approached his bed, he noticed indications Calub had a serious heart condition, so he left.
After a long walk, Mr. Hopley returned to the unlocked Hebert residence and snatched Kienan, instead. “I made my choice to take him. I didn’t know what I had. He was heavy, like carrying a brick.”
Court also heard that Mr. Hopley decided to take Kienan back home at the youngster’s request, not because of the well-publicized, emotional plea by Mr. Hebert to return his son.
Kienan was abducted Sept. 7. He was found alone in the Hebert home early in the morning, Sept. 11. “I did everything he requested,” said Mr. Hopley. “I thought it was right.”
Mr. Hopley was arrested Sept. 13 at a cabin near an Alberta bible camp.
Police were able to track him there through his computer, when Mr. Hopley, in his own name, began posting to a website called Pray for the Safe Return of Kienan.
In one posting, Mr. Hopley said: “I would like to say sorry, sorry, sorry to Paul Hebert and his family, and especially Kienan, who asked to go home.”
When police searched the rooms where Kienan was kept, they found children’s clothing, food supplies, movie videos, a teddy bear, and a copy of Today’s Parent magazine.
Mr. Hopley, his ankles bound by thin shackles, stared morosely at the floor throughout the showing of his lengthy interrogation by police. He did not glance at the screen. Once, he appeared to be wiping away tears.
Mr. Hopley pleaded guilty last March to a charge of abducting someone under the age of 14, and breaking and entering for the purpose of committing an indictable offence. A more serious charge of kidnapping was stayed by the Crown.
Proceedings continue Thursday.