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Sentencing on hold for man in Mexico child abduction case

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The fate of a Winnipeg man who abducted his two children and then hid them in Mexico for four years remains in limbo.

Kevin Maryk appeared in court Monday to be sentenced for one of the province’s most notorious missing persons case. Provincial court Judge Ted Lismer heard a full day of legal arguments and said he was prepared to give his decision at the end of the day.

But the case was suddenly adjourned for one week after Crown and defence lawyers were unable to agree on certain factual points. They will return to court Monday either to set a date for further submissions, or to set a date for Lismer to deliver his verdict.

The Crown is seeking a five-year prison sentence, which is half the maximum 10-year sentence allowed by law on the charge of abduction. Maryk is asking for time served in custody and an immediate return to the community.

Crown attorney Debbie Buors outlined the facts of the crime, saying the two child victims were kept in deplorable conditions. They spoke of being given "tequila wine," partying with young Mexican girls who worked in the sex-trade and being exposed to criminal activity while being taught by Maryk that police are "corrupt and can be paid off."

But defence lawyer Todd Bourcier presented a much different story, saying Maryk fled with his children in order to give them a better life.

"Mr. Maryk had a genuine concern the children weren’t going to be properly cared for. It was Mr. Maryk’s view this was not a good place, not a safe place, for the children," Bourcier said.

"This is not the terrifying monster the Crown is painting him out to be. He’s a father who made a bad mistake."

Bourcier claims his client is full of remorse, but the Crown questioned how genuine that was. At one point Monday, Buors jumped up and accused Maryk of "smirking" towards the public gallery as Bourcier spoke about the mother, Emily Cablek’s character.

Bourcier quickly spoke with client and apologized, saying he was simply taking a sip of water.

"He didn’t intent to be smirking and apologies if that was the impression given," Bourcier said.

Dominic Maryk, now 13, and Abby Maryk, now 11, vanished without a trace while on a court-authorized visitation with their father in August 2008. They wouldn't be located until May 2012 in Guadalajara.

Since his arrest, Maryk has been caught writing letters to family members and friends in which he speaks about having money hidden away and plans to eventually return to Mexico with his children. He even encourages friends to spy on the children while he is locked up.

"Find them so I know where they are," he wrote in one seized prison letter, which was read aloud in court by the Crown on Monday. In another he suggests using a telescope to spy on the children while scoping out Winnipeg schools they may be attending.

Bourcier claims there is no plot in place for a future kidnapping. Rather, Maryk plans to return to Mexico once legally able to do so and hopes his children will eventually join them when they are able to make their own decisions.

Cablek was in court for Monday’s hearing. She presented a victim impact statement in the form of a videotaped interview she did with police. Cablek described the ongoing fear that Maryk will strike again.

"I don’t know what he will do. He’s so unpredictable and really doesn’t care about the law," she said.

Cablek also described the emotional trauma both she and her children have suffered, including how difficult it has been to adjust to getting them back. Both children were denied education, medical or dental care or even friends while living under bogus identities in Mexico, repeatedly moving and being kept in homes surrounded by barbed wire and guard dogs, according to the Crown.

Maryk’s lawyer took issue with some of the Crown’s submission, saying it wasn’t as grim as they want the judge to believe.

"Mr. Maryk was doing his best in what was a difficult situation," Bourcier said. "These kids were not kept prisoners in the home."

Another accused has previously been sentenced. Robert Groen, 43, pleaded guilty earlier this month to abduction for his role the case. He was given one year in jail. The Crown had asked for four years.

Groen is a longtime neighbour, friend and business partner of Kevin Maryk. He was asked to help in a kidnapping plot in the summer of 2008, shortly after the Court of Queen's Bench ordered full custody to Cablek. Maryk was only to be allowed scheduled supervision, which angered him.

Maryk fled with the kids to Mexico and was joined by his nephew, Cody McKay. Groen stayed behind in Winnipeg but played a vital part in the conspiracy.

McKay, 24, is now wanted on a warrant but has evaded arrest. He is believed to still be hiding in Mexico.

In letters seized by prison officials, Maryk told family members how McKay was selling large volumes of drugs in Mexico to help support their life there. He also warns that McKay is likely going to face a life sentence in Mexican prison if he is arrested

Groen began a series of money transfers in November 2008, sending more than US$30,000 through Western Union to Maryk. Groen was reported missing by his wife and parents in February 2011. They discovered Groen had emptied out his bank account, sold $30,000 worth of jewelry, sold the car he was driving that was owned by his parents and even sold a $4,000 rare-stamp collection.

Groen had flown to Mexico, where he lived with Maryk, McKay and the two abducted children between February 2011 and May 2012, providing financial assistance.

Police rescued Dominic and Abby, and arrested Groen and Maryk, after tips began pouring in about a family living in Mexico. Winnipeg police had distributed videos of the case, including one dubbed into Spanish, to Mexican businesses and media outlets.

One neighbour recognized Maryk from the tattoos on his arm, court heard Monday.

Maryk was described as an aggressive, violent individual. Police found drugs and pornography inside the home during the raid, court was told.

Police nearly caught Maryk in late 2009 after discovering his hide-out, but he managed to escape with the children and move to another location.

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