Hunt continues for Amber Alert suspect

Faith, optimism and even a little humility are helping the family of a missing three-year-old boy in southeastern British Columbia who police believe may be in the company of a convicted sex offender.

Kienan Hebert and Randall Hopley are shown in these RCMP handout photos. Hebert disappeared from his home in Sparwood

Kienan Hebert and Randall Hopley are shown in these RCMP handout photos. Hebert disappeared from his home in Sparwood

SPARWOOD, B.C. — Faith, optimism and even a little humility are helping the family of a missing three-year-old boy in southeastern British Columbia who police believe may be in the company of a convicted sex offender.

Paul Hebert’s large family has gathered to maintain a round-the-clock vigil near their Sparwood, B.C., home where little Kienan disappeared this week.

An Amber Alert that was issued Wednesday has now been extended another 24 hours.

“We’re 100 per cent optimistic that we’ll get him back and we’re 100 per cent sure we’ll get him back in an alive state,” the emotional father said when he spoke briefly with reporters Thursday evening.

“As time prolongs, we’ll see where that takes us. We have to be optimistic.”

He said the family has already been down a long road with their son Caleb, who has undergone three heart surgeries.

“Now with Kienan it’s the same feeling. A life-and-death scenario and we’re just taking it moment by moment.”

The Heberts have eight children ranging in age from two to 23. They moved from Peace River, about four months ago.

During this ordeal, a large collection of aunts, uncles and cousins have hunkered down in a house half a block from their home. Paul Hebert said his Baptist faith is helping and he is grateful at how the community has rallied behind them.

“How do I put this? It’s one kid and look at the resources we’re pulling together for one kid . . . our kid . . . which is amazing right?” he said with a catch in his voice.

“You can have a disaster and you’re not getting as much support as we’re getting today. We’re very humbled.”

About 150 people attended a solemn candlelight vigil Thursday night. After a prayer and a moment of silence, town councillor Margaret McKie asked everyone to turn on their porch light to “light the way for him to come home.”

“It’s a hard knock for our community to have a little three-year-old that’s been away from home,” she said.

Randall Hopley, 46, the man at the centre of the dramatic manhunt, has had at least one brush with the law involving a child, has a lengthy criminal record for other offences and a childhood marked by turmoil, according to court records and people who know him.

The documents and recollections paint a disturbing picture of the person police believe may be linked to Kienan’s disappearance.

In November 2007, Hopley was charged with break and enter, unlawful confinement and attempted abduction, confirmed Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie. The indictment for the case indicates the complainant was under 16 years old.

Hopley pleaded guilty to the break and enter and was sentenced to 18 months in jail, but the unlawful confinement and attempted abduction were stayed over concerns about evidence, said MacKenzie.

In the mid-1980s, Hopley was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to two years in federal prison, the National Parole Board confirmed. The board didn’t have details about what happened or the age of the victim because parole records are destroyed after 10 years.

This past June, Hopley was sentenced to two months in jail and two months of probation after he was convicted of an assault that occurred in Sparwood in April.

Sherry Benko, chairwoman of the Sparwood Public Library board, said they recently banned Hopley from the premises after he allegedly assaulted a woman outside its doors.

“She was bleeding and she had to go to hospital,” said Benko, who said Hopley was using the library’s computers to look for jobs.

“We’ve had issues with him. Two of my staff had to go to court and he was convicted of assault last year.”

Hopley was also convicted in 2006 for a break-and-enter in Sparwood, for which he received a conditional sentence of nine months, according to court records.

His stepfather, Doug Fink, said the trouble began well before law enforcement was involved.

The man’s biological father died in a mine accident when Hopley was a young child, said Fink, who married Hopley’s mother when Hopley was still a toddler.

“I couldn’t handle him, he was running away and in trouble all the time,” Fink told The Canadian Press in an interview Thursday.

Hopley stopped by his mother and stepfather’s home in nearby Fernie on Tuesday, said Fink, who wasn’t home at the time. Fink said he hasn’t seen Hopley in more than a year.

“He was always into trouble, he was around jail I think more than any place,” recalled Fink.

“I didn’t want nothing to do with him, he’d only stay so long and he couldn’t help himself, he’d be in trouble again.”

Orville Sheets has known Hopley since the mid-1990s, and has bailed the man out of jail more than once in recent years.

Sheets, 74, said Hopley had been at his home as recently as Tuesday, though he was gone by the time Sheets woke up Wednesday morning.

Sheets said he was surprised to learn Hopley’s name linked to the Amber Alert.

“He’s basically a square shooter, you know,” said Sheets.

“If he owes you something, he pays you and he doesn’t do drugs, he don’t smoke cigarettes, he don’t drink beer, so, he’s actually kind of a quiet guy. He doesn’t like being pushed around. That’s one thing.”

The RCMP said Hopley has no known connection to the boy, who vanished sometime Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, but they want to speak with him. Hopley is believed to be driving a brown 1987 Toyota Camry with the licence plate 098RAL.

The Amber Alert issued Wednesday evening was broadcast throughout B.C. and Alberta, asking drivers to keep an eye out for the suspect vehicle. In Vancouver, it was displayed on transit buses and the city’s SkyTrain system.

RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk declined to say what led police to target Hopley.

“I don’t have the full background on Mr. Hopley, certainly more information will become available as we can release it,” Moskaluk told reporters.

“Putting it bluntly, amongst us we do have people that have previously been involved in criminal activity in a variety of criminal offences. Some of them become quite good citizens and partake in our communities and integrate back, but some don’t.”

— With files from James Keller and Keven Drews in Vancouver

Orville Sheets has known Hopley since the mid-1990s, and has bailed the man out of jail more than once in recent years.

Sheets, 74, said Hopley had been staying at his home, where Hopley was as recently as Tuesday, though he was gone by the time Sheets woke up Wednesday morning.

Sheets said he was surprised to learn Hopley’s name linked to the Amber Alert.

“He’s basically a square shooter, you know,” said Sheets.

“If he owes you something, he pays you and he doesn’t do drugs, he don’t smoke cigarettes, he don’t drink beer, so, he’s actually kind of a quiet guy. He doesn’t like being pushed around. That’s one thing.”

The RCMP said Hopley has no known connection to the boy, but they want to speak with him. Hopley is believed to be driving a brown 1987 Toyota Camry with the licence plate 098RAL.

Amber Alert messages were broadcast throughout B.C. as far away as Vancouver, where display screens on transit buses and the city’s SkyTrain system urged the public to tune into local radio stations.

RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk declined to say what led police to target Hopley.

“I don’t have the full background on Mr. Hopley, certainly more information will become available as we can release it,” Moskaluk told reporters.

“Putting it bluntly, amongst us we do have people that have previously been involved in criminal activity in a variety of criminal offences. … Some of them become quite good citizens and partake in our communities and integrate back, but some don’t.”

Kienan’s father, Paul Hebert, said he was holding out hope that his son will soon be back at home safe and sound.

“Everyone’s on hand, the professionals are doing what they can do, and we just have faith that Kienan will be coming back home and safe,” he told reporters Thursday morning.

“We have eight kids. Our six-year-old has had three heart surgeries, and now we deal with a kidnapped child — to me, kidnapped; he also could be lost, we won’t speculate on what’s going on. But we hope for the best for Kienan’s safety and that he’ll be home safe.”

Hebert described his son as a “great kid.”

“He’s super happy all the time,” said Hebert. “If you see him, you’ll think he’s a cute little button. He’s just a happy kid.”

Dave Elliott, a longtime friend of the Hebert family, said the Heberts moved to Sparwood from Peace River, Alta., only about four months ago.

“The family is holding out pretty good. It’s tough. It’s a trying time for the parents,” he said.

“All the family is here. They’re all pulling together.”

Elliott said everyone is praying for Kienen’s safe return and Hebert is a religious person and has faith.

He said there is no regret moving into Sparwood.

“There’s criminals everywhere so you can move into another town 20 minutes from here and the same thing might happen. It’s a scenario and that’s it. It can happen to anybody and unfortunately it happened to my friend and I’m worried about my children as well.”

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