Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Child abduction suspect 'pretty good' with kids

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The mother of a man sought by police in connection with the disappearance of a three-year-old Sparwood, B.C., boy said Friday she doesn't believe her troubled son would hurt the child.

"I feel really sorry for the little kid. I don't think Randy (Hopley) will harm him," said Margaret Fink, 70. "He's been with the grandkids here a lot, and he's been pretty good."

Kienan Hebert, who is the subject of an Amber Alert, went missing on Wednesday from his home in Sparwood, about 240 kilometres southwest of Calgary.

Hours before the disappearance sparked a massive manhunt, Randall Hopley sat sipping tea in his mother's Fernie home.

"It had been a while, we hadn't seen him. He'd gotten into trouble again and he was away and we never heard from him," she said.

Fink was referring to her 46-year-old son's jail stint for breaking and entering.

Fink said she's surprised her son is suspected of snatching the boy, but acknowledges his lengthy criminal history.

"He's been in trouble for a long time," she said. "He was always nervous and getting into trouble and couldn't keep up with anybody. He had problems in school."

There were no signs Hopley was upset or agitated Tuesday afternoon, Fink said.

When he first went missing, Kienan, an occasional sleepwalker, was thought to have wandered from his bed in the night.

As that hope dwindled, police began to scan the roads for Hopley and his brown 1987 Toyota Camry with the B.C. licence plate 098 RAL.

Media reports Thursday suggested police had surveillance video showing Kienan and Hopley together. On Friday, however, RCMP told reporters police have no confirmed security-camera footage of either Hopley or the missing toddler.

Hopes rose suddenly Friday afternoon after police ordered a B.C. ferry back to the dock in connection with the missing child. Passengers on the 2 p.m. sailing from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay were told their trip was cancelled in connection with the Amber Alert. People on the ferry were told to stay in their seats and police could be seen surrounding a men's bathroom.

Police later reported it was a false alarm.

About three hours later, RCMP put up a roadblock on B.C. Highway 97 between Dawson and Chetwynd, after receiving a report of a male hitchhiker travelling with a young boy.

Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said the precautionary measure had yet to turn up Kienan or his alleged abductor.

The highway remains open to traffic.

Moskaluk encouraged people to keep their eyes open for the boy.

"We don't get frustrated with (false) reports," he said. "We would certainly prefer that everyone remain vigilant.

"Whether it's a fruitful report or not, it's followed up on."

Police have received "numerous tips around the vehicle," Moskaluk added.

Earlier in the day, Moskaluk said numerous reported sightings have been relayed to police -- both in B.C. and Alberta -- but stressed no sighting has been confirmed.

Moskaluk also asked anyone who owns a recreational property in the Sparwood area to check for signs of a break-in, as Hopley has committed a string of property offences.

"Certainly if you haven't checked your property of late, it would be appreciated by investigators for you to go to your property and check it out," he said.

Also Friday afternoon, at a news conference in Sparwood, search manager Simon Piney said authorities are still actively pursuing the two prevailing theories -- that Kienan simply walked away from his home on his own or that he was abducted.

If Kienan wandered off, he is likely within a one-kilometre radius of his home, Piney said. Based on current weather conditions, a child Kienan's age would have a 70 per cent chance of surviving 96 hours on his own, he said.

More than 20 police investigators are interviewing people who know Hopley. They also conducted a thorough search Friday of his residence, the back room of a dilapidated trailer he shared with a roommate.

Orville Sheets, who owns the property, described Hopley as "fastidious."

"He didn't smoke, didn't drink, didn't do drugs," Sheets said.

"Last time I saw him was Monday night," Sheets said. "It stupefies me that they can't find him."

When Hopley, then 21, was released from prison on a sexual-assault conviction, a psychiatrist told the National Parole Board he was likely to reoffend.

A family spokesman said the Heberts didn't know Hopley.


-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 10, 2011 A24

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