A 30-year-old Winnipeg education assistant has admitted to forming "totally dysfunctional relationships" with two young students who fled their families and looked to him as a father figure.
Kevin Sidwell pleaded guilty Wednesday to several charges including abduction, invitation to sexual touching, criminal harassment and assault. He was sentenced to 13 months of time spent in custody and three years of supervised probation, which includes having no contact with children, as part of a joint recommendation from lawyers.
"This is a very unusual case," Crown attorney Terry McComb told court. Sidwell claims addictions to cocaine, alcohol and his troubled past filled with abuse contributed to his behaviour.
Sidwell befriended the first victim, a 14-year-old boy, while running an after-school program through the St. James-Assiniboia School Division in 2009. Sidwell began referring to the boy as his "cousin" as they spent much of their free time together. But the relationship soured when the teen got a girlfriend.
"This created a lot of animosity and jealousy," said McComb. Sidwell began phoning the boy repeatedly and even showed up at his home one night, eventually passing out drunk on the front lawn. He also punched him in the face during an argument. The boy's parents spoke with police but no charges were laid at the time. They were reluctant to pursue the matter because they thought highly of Sidwell. They were also trying to help him deal with some of his issues, court was told.
Months later, Sidwell began a similar friendship with a 12-year-old boy he met at school. Sidwell began telling people the boy was his son, while the boy would call Sidwell "dad." The boy also began running away from home to stay at Sidwell's condo, court was told.
"He would tell people (Sidwell) was his dad, that it was the only place he wanted to stay. Mr. Sidwell even spoke of wanting to adopt him," said McComb. "(Sidwell) essentially groomed the child to believe he cared for him more than his own family did."
The boy's parents filed at least 15 missing-person reports with police in 2010. Their son would usually return after a night or two but would never admit where he'd been. Police caught the boy and Sidwell together in a vehicle last June. The boy screamed "Run, dad" as police moved in to question and ultimately arrest him. The boy admitted Sidwell had asked him on one occasion to touch his penis, which led to the sexual touching charge. Police also considered Sidwell to have abducted the boy.
"Initially (the youth) was his biggest supporter and fan. Eventually, the child came to realize the relationship was unhealthy," said McComb. It was following this incident that police revisited the original family who had dealt with Sidwell and decided to lay additional charges of criminal harassment and assault. Sidwell has been in custody since his arrest.
Sidwell was fired once the allegations surfaced. He had no prior record.
Sidwell was described as having immaturity issues. The death of his father in 2002 and grandfather in 2009 were cited as contributing factors.
"I feel terrible about what happened. I hope I can change my life," Sidwell told court Wednesday.
Provincial court Judge Tim Preston urged Sidwell to make good use of counselling services: "You have a lot of work to do on yourself."