Sentencing begins for Sparwood child abductor

Crown seeks dangerous offender status for Randall Hopley

  • Jul. 19, 2012 7:00 p.m.

By Annalee Grant

Details emerged Wednesday in Cranbrook Supreme Court of the abduction of three-year-old Kienan Hebert, as Randall Hopley’s sentencing hearing began.

Hopley has pleaded guilty to abduction and break and enter with intent to commit an indictable offense.

The sentencing hearing began July 18 in front of Justice Heather Holmes. Lynal Doerksen represented the Crown and William Thorne is representing Hopley.

Doerksen began by announcing he would be seeking dangerous or long term offender status for Hopley.

The hearing began with a summary of the events leading up to Hopley’s arrest, and then moved on to a video taped police statement of Hopley, recorded shortly after his arrest. During the video, Hopley revealed more details about what happened the day he snatched the young boy from his Sparwood home. See front page for more on that story.

The day continued with another video taped interview of Hopley, this time with an unnamed moderator and the father of Kienan, Paul Hebert.

Justice Holmes asked what Thursday’s continuation would include. Doerksen advised her that the interview with Paul Hebert would be completed. Matters waived from provincial court earlier in the day would be addressed.

Charges of break and enter and commit an indictable offence and possession of stolen property over $5,000 were waived in from Alberta in June at the request of local crown counsel. Early in the morning July 18 before Supreme Court began, Hopley appeared before provincial court Judge Ron Webb. Those charges were then adjourned to Supreme Court to be dealt with at the same time as the admitted abduction and break and enter charges. No plea has been entered on the unrelated Alberta charges.

Finally, Doerksen said the dangerous offender status would be presented and previous psychiatric assessments would be discussed.

Thorne said he would be making some submissions related to similar cases, although he noted there are few like Hopley’s.

“This is such a unique case,” he said.

An application to release the video statement was received by Justice Holmes by the gathered media. After an afternoon break, Thorne said his client opposed the release of the video for three reasons.

He told court his client has been in solitary confinement for 308 days for his own safety, and that the release of the video could further put him in danger.

Hopley expressed concern that the release of the video could provide a manual for other child abductors to learn how to run from police and how to abduct a child. His final reason was that he did not believe himself or the Hebert family wanted to contribute to the “media circus” that has surrounded the case.

Justice Holmes did not decide on the application to release the video, and was unable to provide a time when it could be heard.

HOPLEY RETURNED KIENAN BECAUSE THE CHILD ASKED

Three-year-old Kienan Hebert asked his abductor if he could go home, prompting Randall Hopley to return the young boy to his Sparwood family.

In video evidence heard in Cranbrook Supreme Court on Wednesday, July 18, Hopley told police that he meant no harm to the family, but abducted the boy to retaliate for what happened during his 2007 break and enter case that was heard in Cranbrook.

Details surrounding the abduction of Kienan are being revealed as Cranbrook Supreme Court listens to a statement of Hopley, who is being sentenced this week after previously pleading guilty in June to abduction.

A video of Hopley’s statement to police, delivered shortly after he was apprehended by the RCMP in Crowsnest Pass, Alta. on Sept 13, 2011, was played to Justice Heather Holmes on Wednesday. Hopley was located at the Crowsnest Pass Bible Camp days after he returned Kienan.

In the recording, special homicide investigator Sgt. Peter Tewfik interviews Hopley, who appears talkative and at times emotional. As the video was played in court, Hopley kept his eyes fixed to the floor in the prisoner’s box.

During the video, Hopley states more than once that Kienan asked to go home on the Friday after his abduction, and that he told the child he would be returned the next day.

“It was Kienan that asked to go home,” Hopley says in the six-hour video, pared down to three hours for the court.

The 47-year-old admits that he abducted Kienan in retaliation at police and prosecutors for a 2007 case where he was charged with break and enter. Hopley said he tried the front door of several homes in Sparwood the night of the abduction before reaching the Heberts’ house.

Hopley also tells Tewfik that he went to the house at around 1:30 a.m. and, after finding the door unlocked, he entered and went upstairs to Kienan’s room that he shared with his brother Caleb. Hopley tells Tewfik that he watched the boys sleep, identifying that the other boy may have a heart condition, and then told himself not to carry out his plan.

He then left the house and went for a long walk. He tells Tewfik that he was scared while in the home, and worried about what would happen if Kienan was hurt or died while he had him.

“I just walked out the house,” Hopley says.

Tewfik commends Hopley for targeting Kienan instead of his six-year-old brother, who indeed has an illness and would have required medication.

Hopley then tells Tewfik that after his walk, he decided to return to the home, through the unlocked front door, and into the bedroom again. Kienan’s brother had left the room by that time. He first checked other rooms, observing a girl sleeping. Then Hopley snatched the boy.

“When I grabbed Kienan, I basically bolted with him,” he tells Tewfik. “It was like carrying a brick.”

Tewfik mentions that the family told police they would often bring Kienan to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and that may have been why he allowed Hopley to pick him up without making a noise.

Tewfik showed Hopley screenshots taken from a Facebook group titled Pray For The Safe Return of Kienan Hebert. Posts made by Hopley’s Facebook identity on the group’s wall are read out.

In the post, Hopley apologizes to the Hebert family and insists the boy was well taken care of and that he made Kienan happy.

“He had a warm house, not the bush where people would think. He kept my spirits up. He was always laughing and smiling.”

Hopley expands on his feelings for the Heberts after hearing Tewfik read the posts he made.

“I didn’t do this because I hated the family,” he tells Tewfik.

Hopley then says he tried to search for the profiles of either Tammy or Paul Hebert, parents of Kienan, but could not find one matching them. He also tells Tewfik that he sent an email to Global News, and cursed at one of the news channel’s anchors as she reported on the abduction. He said he watched news of Kienan’s abduction on one of the computers at the Bible Camp.

Hopley insists the abduction of Kienan was done in retaliation for previous charges from 2007.

Hopley pleaded guilty in 2007 to a break and enter and received an 18-month jail sentence. Charges of unlawful confinement and attempted abduction were stayed, even though Hopley admitted at the trial that he had attempted to take a 10-year-old boy. A search of Hopley’s home at the time turned up pictures of the boy, his medication, a suitcase of children’s clothing and some pull-up diapers.

Tewfik talks about Hopley’s past, confirming with him that he was in foster care from the time he was about five or six years old. He tells Hopley that his mother, Margaret Fink, had described him as a trouble maker. Fink was the mother of six children, and Hopley’s father died when he was young.

Getting back to the abduction, Hopley said his head was “spinning” when he took Kienan and he couldn’t “think straight.”

“I feel bad that I did it. I don’t know how to explain it,” Hopley says.

Tewfik asks Hopley to tell him what Kienan did in the morning after he woke up in the cabin in Crowsnest Pass.

“He wanted to see the train,” Hopley replies. He then describes the cabin being right next to railway tracks. He says he propped the boy up on a chair so he could watch as one sped by.

Tewfik tells Hopley he is a homicide investigator, and that he travels the province investigating such cases.

“I’m really glad, Randall, that I do not have to do a homicide investigation here,” he says.

In response, Hopley says, “I could have kept the child longer.”

Hopley tells Tewfik that he had thought about the abduction as early as Monday, July 4, 2011, before he actually went through with it on Wednesday, September 7. He had been released from prison only weeks before.

In preparation, Hopley began collecting items for a boy and said he had lots of movies and even bought a DVD player to watch them on. He got cereal and other food, and was worried the boy he took may not like what he picked out.

“I was surprised by how much he did like,” he says.

Tewfik asks Hopley why he chose the Hebert home, and what drew his eye to it. Hopley’s answer is short and to the point.

“Easy access,” he says, adding he noticed toys scattered around the yard.

After snatching Kienan, Hopley said he used the front door, then led him down the street into a nearby trailer park. He says the boy told him his feet were cold before Hopley loaded him into his brown Toyota – without a car seat – and headed for Alberta.

Hopley talks about the 911 call he made on his own deactivated cell phone that was still capable of making emergency calls. Court heard a recording of the call. As it was played, Hopley bowed his head.

In the call, the voice that was later identified by Fink as her son, refuses to provide his name but says the child is home safe.

“I didn’t tell them who I was because it wasn’t important at the time,” Hopley says.

Hopley says he was surprised no one was in the neighbourhood or the home when he returned with Kienan, and that he drove in and out without seeing any police vehicles.

FATHER FACED HIS CHILD’S ABDUCTOR SHORTLY AFTER ARREST

In an emotional video, Paul Hebert told his child’s abductor that his children are now scared of the Boogieman who stole their little brother.

“You were like the Boogieman who came at night,” Hebert told Randall Hopley shortly after his arrest on Sept. 13, 2011.

Hebert had the chance to face the man who snuck into his home in the middle of the night – where himself, his wife and eight children slept – to take one of his children.

In the interview shown in Cranbrook Supreme Court on July 18, Hebert along with an unnamed mediator push Hopley for more details into what happened the night he took Kienan.

Hopley, who has pleaded guilty to abduction and break and enter with intent to commit an indictable offense, becomes enraged when the mediator asks if he sexually touched the child. At the beginning of the interview, Hopley is quick to clear up any questions for Hebert.

“I did not sexually assault your child at all,” Hopley tells the father.

He continues to try to explain himself and insists the abduction was not meant to harm the family.

“This was not to do with you or your family,” he says. “I feel very upset that I did something so stupid. I treated him totally with respect.”

Hebert listened quietly, then told Hopley he is there for him.

“I forgive you for taking Kienan,” he said. “I was really hoping that you would turn yourself in so that we could help you.”

Hebert urged Hopley to be accountable for his actions, and to seek help. The conversation then turned to Kienan’s brother Caleb, who has a heart condition. Earlier in the sentencing hearing, Hopley told Sgt. Peter Tewfik he had previously looked at six-year-old Caleb, before leaving the home and re-entering to discover he was no longer in the room with Kienan. He decided to take Kienan because he was not sick.

“You could have killed him that day,” Hebert tells Hopley of his older son.

Hebert described the first moment he saw his son, in the earlier morning hours of Sept. 11, 2011 after an anonymous 911 caller, later confirmed to be Hopley, reported he was at home safe.

“My God, I fell to me knees,” Hebert said. “I cried like a baby.”

The mediator asked Hopley to clarify if he ever touched Kienan during the time he had him.

“There was no assault – nothing,” Hopley said. “There is no touching the wrong way.”

The mediator continued, asking if Hopley may have touched the boy in a way that could have been mistaken as sexual. Hopley denied any touching, and said that was off limits. He became angry, and the mediator explained his reason for continuing the touching issue.

“The story that you’re giving us is somewhat extraordinary,” he said.

Hopley told the mediator and Hebert that Kienan slept on a bed with pillows in the living room, while he stayed in one of the bedrooms. He also insisted he did not accompany the boy to the bathroom, but did help him change his underwear at one point.

Hebert asked Hopley about the time spent with his son. Hopley said they enjoyed playing, jumping around and tickling on his stomach.

“I was happy all the time,” Hopley said. “I kept saying to myself I’m glad he’s home.”

Hopley asked Hebert how Kienan was doing since the ordeal. Hebert said he has noticed some habit differences in his son. Instead of being up for anything, the boy was more insecure, and said “I don’t want to,” more often.

Hebert asked Hopley how he could make his home safer in the future.

“I’m asking you because you’re the professional,” Hebert said.

Hopley advised the father of eight to keep his doors locked, and said he wouldn’t have been able to get Kienan if they had been. Hebert told Hopley his family left the door to their home open at night because they trust their neighbours.

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