CRANBROOK, B.C. - The man who abducted a three-year-old British Columbia boy before returning him unharmed four days later had initially considered taking the child's older brother, his sentencing hearing was told Wednesday.
Randall Hopley, 46, has already pleaded guilty to abducting three-year-old Kienan Hebert from the boy's home in Sparwood, a southeastern B.C. town not far from the Alberta boundary, last September. The boy was returned unharmed and Hopley was later arrested at a nearby Bible camp.
The Crown is considering asking that Hopley, who covered his face as he arrived at a courthouse in Cranbrook, B.C., be designated a dangerous or long-term offender.
After his arrest, Hopley told police he planned the abduction a couple of days in advance. He said he chose the Hebert home because the door was unlocked, it was in a remote new neighbourhood, and "it was easy to tell" there were children inside because of the number of toys outside.
He originally walked into the home at 1:30 a.m. into a room shared by Kienan and his six-year-old brother, Caleb, who has had three heart surgeries. He saw a photo of Caleb with a note written underneath that referenced the surgery.
"I thought, 'No. If I do grab him, the kid could get startled and have a heart attack,'" Hopley told a police officer in a videotaped confession, which was played in court.
"You could end up with a dying child, a dead child. So I went out for an hour's walk and later came back and took Kienan out."
Hopley said he was worried that he might have grabbed the wrong child, so he checked Kienan's chest for heart surgery scars.
"When I grabbed Kienan, I basically bolted with him," said Hopley during the six-hour interview.
"He was so heavy, he was like a brick. It wore me out in less than half a block and then he started crying that his feet were cold."
Hopley, who turns 47 next week, sat in court Wednesday wearing grey jogging pants and a golf shirt that was striped red, charcoal, light grey and white. His feet were shackled and he looked down during most of the hearing.
The court heard it was Hopley's desire to apologize that led police to him. He turned to Facebook to post an apology, allowing police to use his IP address to trace his location to the Crowsnest Lake Bible Camp. Crown counsel Lynal Doerksen read some of those postings in court.
"I would like to say sorry, sorry, sorry to Paul Hebert and wife," said one post, referring to the boy's parents.
"I did this out of protest to the RCMP, Judge Webb and my lawyer," he said, referring to an earlier conviction in 2007, when he was accused of attempting to remove a 10-year old boy from his home.
"He asked to go home Friday night. He kept my spirits up. He was always playing ... always laughing and smiling. ... I did not harm him in any way possible.
"I brought back their son because he asked to go home."
Included in video was a face-to-face meeting between Hopley and Kienan's father Paul Hebert.
"Thank you for bringing him back," said Hebert.
Hopley replied: "I did not sexually assault your child whatsoever. It is nothing to do with your family. It makes me upset I did something so stupid."
Hebert told Hopley that even before the arrest, he as hoping Hopley would turn himself in so he could get the help he needed. He added: "I forgive you for taking Kienan. You need to forgive yourself."
Both Hebert and the police officer pressed Hopley for the reason why he took the little boy, saying his anger at police and the courts for his arrest in 2007 didn't make sense. But Hopley stuck to his guns about his motives.
"This is totally a protest, 100 per cent. I was wrongfully accused."
Hebert said Kienan was doing well, but there was a bit of trauma he experienced after his return home.
"You're sort of the boogie man who came that night," he said.
Kienan vanished from his bedroom in the middle of the night wearing Scooby Doo boxer shorts, prompting police to launch a massive search for a little boy.
The search grew over several days, with police issuing an Amber Alert that was eventually expanded to include Alberta.
Four days later, just as quietly as he vanished, the boy was returned to his home.
Kienan told police he had been at "Jason's house" and wasn't harmed or touched, said Doerksen.
The boy said he knew the man he was with as Jason, who he played with and who lived far away.
Kienan was taken to a local hospital, where staff conducted sexual assault tests that did not reveal any signs of an assault, said Doerksen.
Doerksen indicated the Crown plans to apply for a 60-day psychiatric assessment to determine whether Hopley should be designated a dangerous or long-term offender.
A handful of reporters sat in the courtroom gallery, but there was sign of either the Hebert family or Hopley's mother.
The Heberts have since moved away from Sparwood to northern Alberta.
Hopley pleaded guilty to abduction of a person under 14 and break and enter with intent to commit an indictable offence, though the Crown stayed a charge of kidnapping.
Documents released after Hopley's arrest showed that he was convicted in 1985 of sexually assaulting a five-year-old boy and a psychiatric report leading up to his prison release warned he could offend again.
The report said Hopley had an IQ well below average, and was one of those people who seemed to have fallen between the cracks of various support agencies.
Hopley's current lawyer, William Thorne, called his client "a very simple man with a very childish manner."