STONY PLAIN, Alta. — A man has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl, beating her unconscious and tossing her body into the woods on an Alberta reserve in what Mounties called a horrific attack.
People on the Paul First Nation found the girl's partially clad body in the snow a few days before last Christmas.
She was flown to hospital in Edmonton, where she remained unconscious for several days.
Court heard the child suffered a brain injury and will have life-long complications.
James Clifford Paul pleaded guilty this week at the beginning of a preliminary hearing to charges of sexual assault and aggravated assault.
A sentencing date for the 22-year-old is to be set in the new year, when it's expected other charges of attempted murder and kidnapping will be dropped.
He remains in custody.
Crown prosecutor Jason Neustaeter explained in court that Paul and the girl had been walking along a trail on the reserve towards a convenience store, when he sexually assaulted her.
Paul walked away and got annoyed at the girl for following him. He started beating her and left her battered body in the bush.
Other people walking on the path found the child, took her to a house and called 911. When she arrived at hospital, she was unresponsive and hypothermic.
His parents, Ramona and James Strong, said that two days later they were forced to move off the reserve because of threats of violence. RCMP helped transport them and their other eight children to an undisclosed Edmonton-area hotel.
"We didn't do anything, and our kids didn't do anything,'' they said in a statement at the time.
"We just want to say, like everybody else, we are truly and deeply shocked and mortified and still find it hard to believe what happened.''
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