CROWSNEST PASS — When RCMP found Randall Hopley hiding in an old mining cabin this week, it wasn’t so surprising.
He’s done it before.
Past incidents suggest the 46-year-old is a break-in artist with a penchant for swiping odd goods and a knack for squatting in abandoned homes in the Crowsnest Pass area.
Hopley is accused of abducting three-year-old Kienan Hebert from his Sparwood home and returning him there four days later in the middle of the night, without being spotted by police. It took police another two days to track down their suspect.
Bob Grisl, plant supervisor at the Graymont limestone quarry, said Hopley broke a window to get into the locked cabin where he was discovered Tuesday.
Grisl said staff had checked the handful of abandoned buildings at the rock quarry a week ago, and there were no signs anyone had been living there.
The cabin had electricity but no heat, water or furniture.
Grisl said RCMP finished their study of the scene Wednesday night, but he’s not sure what officers found and removed from the cabin.
Last year, a Calgary family said they found Hopley had moved into their empty cabin — changed the locks, moved in furniture, and even hooked up water and power.
News stories in local media from the time said officers arrested Hopley as he was trying to drive away after the family phoned police. Outside the home they found stolen goods — a camper, quad, car batteries, generators and other heavy-duty equipment. Inside, there were reportedly computers, sexual paraphernalia and children’s movies, diapers and clothes.
Hopley was charged with various offences, including break and enter and possession of stolen property. A preliminary hearing was set to begin in the case next week in Pincher Creek, Alta.
“He lived around here all his life. He knows the ins and outs of all the abandoned cabins,” said Curtis Hagley, owner of Inn on the Border, a short distance from where Hopley was arrested.
He said Hopley was convicted of breaking into some of his rental cabins a few years ago and swiped several items, such as a satellite receiver, blankets and light bulbs that officers later found at another summer cottage where Hopley had been squatting.
Court records show Hopley pleaded guilty to a 2007 break and enter and was sentenced to 18 months jail, but other charges in the case — unlawful confinement and attempted abduction — were stayed.
Hopley admitted at trial that he attempted to take a 10-year-old boy, who was in foster care at the time. Hopley claimed he was acting on behalf of the child’s parents. Media have reported a search warrant of Hopley’s home indicates officers found pictures of the boy, the boy’s medication, a suitcase of children’s clothes and some pull-up diapers.
Hopley’s criminal record also includes a sexual assault conviction from an incident in the mid-1980s, for which he was sentenced to two years in prison.
He was also convicted in 2006 for a break and enter in Sparwood and received a nine-month conditional sentence.
“He was a sneak and enter and take kind of guy,” said Hagley. “He would slip through windows. He never destroyed anything, that was the creepy part.”
— By Chris Purdy in Edmonton