NEWS

Kienan Hebert: Hundreds Search For Missing 3-Year-Old B.C. Boy Believed Victim Of Kidnapping

09/09/2011 04:00 EDT | Updated 11/09/2011 05:12 EST
CP
UPDATE: A public tip that saw police search a passenger ferry in B.C. as they investigate the disappearance of three-year-old Kienan Hebert has turned out to be a false alarm.

BC Ferries officials say the vessel left Vancouver for Victoria at 2 p.m. when the crew received a call from Delta Police, requesting the ship return to its Vancouver-area terminal at Tsawwassen.

BC Ferries spokesman Mark Stefanson says the call was in connection with the Amber Alert, which was issued Wednesday after the boy vanished from his home in Sparwood.

Stefanson says the Coastal Celebration ferry returned to the Tsawwassen terminal, where police officers searched the vessel but did not find the boy, suspect Randall Hopley or Hopley's vehicle.

Police are looking for the boy and 46-year-old Hopley, a Sparwood resident who is a convicted sex offender.

UPDATE: CTV and Global are reporting that the incident on the BC Ferry is reportedly a false alarm.

#amberalert search on BC Ferry reportedly a false alarm. Boy not on board. Keinen Hebert still missing.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

The RCMP have released a new photo of Randall Hopley, the suspect in the boy's kidnapping.

UPDATE: The Vancouver Sun is reporting that a BC Ferry is being turned around because of the amber alert.

Breaking: Tsawwassen Ferry turned around - reports that it's possibly related to Kienan Hebert Amber Alert. Keep an eye on vancouversun.com.less than a minute ago via Seesmic Desktop Favorite Retweet Reply

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SPARWOOD, B.C. - Cabin owners in southeastern British Columbia should check their properties and local businesses should watch their surveillance tapes for any sign of three-year-old Kienan Hebert or the suspect in his disappearance, RCMP said Friday as the search for the boy entered its third day.

After more than two days of searching and a widely publicized Amber Alert, there was still no sign of little Kienan Hebert, who was last seen in his home in Sparwood when he was put to bed Tuesday evening.

Police also haven't been able to track down 46-year-old Randall Hopley, a convicted sex offender who remains the main suspect in the case.

"If anyone is a recreational property owner, if you haven't checked your property of late, it would be appreciated by the investigators to go to your property, check it out, see if there's anything suspicious," Cpl. Dan Moskaluk told reporters in Sparwood on Friday.

Moskaluk also asked for help from business owners in the region, asking them to look at any surveillance video for signs of Kienan, Hopley or Hopley's brown 1987 Toyota Camry.

As of Friday morning, there were no confirmed sightings of Kienan or Hopley, despite a number of public tips, and no sign of them on local surveillance tapes, Moskaluk said.

Kienan's disappearance has sparked two simultaneous searches based on two competing theories of what may have happened to him.

Immediately after the boy was reported missing, hundreds of ground searchers began combing the area around his home with help from police dogs, an RCMP helicopter and military aircraft.

That search continued Friday, primarily focusing on an area within a kilometre from Kienan's home, where he would likely be if he wandered off on his own.

The other theory is that Kienan was abducted. To that end, RCMP have more than 20 investigators working on the case and the Amber Alert — which normally lasts 24 hours — was extended Thursday evening.

An Amber Alert hasn't been issued in Alberta, but Moskaluk argued the intensive media coverage in that province has essentially achieved the same effect.

Moskaluk said investigators searched Hopley's last known address, but he couldn't disclose what, if anything, they found.

Hopley is a convicted sex offender with a long criminal record for other offences, including break and enter and assault.

The sexual assault conviction was from an incident in the mid-1980s, for which he was sentenced to two years in a federal prison.

An incident in November 2007 led to charges of break and enter, unlawful confinement and attempted abduction, and the indictment for the case indicated the victim was under 16 years old.

B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch has confirmed Hopley pleaded guilty to break and enter and was sentenced to 18 months in jail, while the other charges were stayed.

Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie confirmed Hopley admitted at trial that he attempted to remove a 10-year-old boy, who was in foster care at the time. Hopley claimed he was acting on behalf of the child's parents.

A preliminary hearing has been set for Sept. 19 in Pincher Creek, Alta. According to a court official in Lethbridge, Hopley faced 12 charges dating back to May 2010 in Crowsnest Pass. They include break and enter and possession of stolen property.

Two of Hopley's recent defence lawyers declined to comment.

The focus on Hopley hasn't diminished the ground search.

Search and rescue manager Simon Piney said more than 200 people were expected to be involved in the hunt for Kienan on Friday.

Piney said the Amber Alert hadn't detracted from the need to keep searching.

"If it turns out that the person of interest (Hopley) is found and has an innocent explanation for everything, what we are dong now represents Kienan's best chance of survival," Piney told reporters.

"If he's not near his home, that helps the RCMP significantly."

Piney said statistics suggest a three-year-old child moving on his or her own would likely be within one kilometre of where they disappeared. He added that after four days, the chances of survival for a young child is about 70 per cent.

"We are still very much in that bracket where, if he's out there, he has a pretty good chance of being OK," Piney said.

The street to the Hebert residence has been closed to all but local traffic, but the bright yellow police tape surrounding the home has now been removed.

Sparwood Coun. Lois Halko said she is proud of the community's efforts. She said it's also a sobering lesson to those who thought Sparwood was far removed from the world's social ills.

"We almost feel we're invincible. There's really nothing here to raise red flags about anything significantly of danger in our community," she said. "So you go along thinking life is pretty good, we're pretty safe. So this gives us a huge feeling of vulnerability."

Kienan's father, Paul Hebert, said his large family is "100 per cent sure" the boy will be returned unharmed.

"As time prolongs, we'll see where that takes us," the emotional father said Thursday evening. "We have to be optimistic."

He said the family, which includes Kienan and his seven siblings, has already been faced the challenge of dealing with their son Caleb, who has undergone three heart surgeries.

"Now with Kienan, it's the same feeling. A life-and-death scenario and we're just taking it moment by moment."

The family, whose children range in age between two to 23, moved from Peace River, Alta., about four months ago.