Suspect's mom doesn't think her son would harm missing B.C. boy
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 harm 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."
Note that she only "thinks" and that he has been "pretty" good; this is an indication of not only doubts, but that there has been concern in his behavior with the grandkids.
Kienan Hebert, who is the subject of an Amber Alert, went missing on Wednesday from his home in Sparwood.
Hours before the disappearance sparked a massive manhunt, Hopley sat sipping tea in his mother's Fernie home.
"I was reading a book and looked up and there was Randy," said Fink.
Tuesday afternoon's visit was a surprise.
"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.
By trouble, Fink is referring to her 46-year-old son serving a jail stint for breaking and entering.
Fink says she is 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.
Trouble has been shadowing Hopley since he was a toddler. Hopley, who was born in Fernie in 1965, was two years old when his father was killed in an explosion in the Balmer North coal mine in Michel, B.C., in April 1967.
In elementary school, Hopley struggled. A lawyer who later defended him for a 1985 sexual assault charge described Hopley — then 21 — as "borderline retarded."
"He was always nervous and getting into trouble and couldn't keep up with anybody. He had problems in school," his mother said.
There were no signs that Hopley was upset or agitated Tuesday afternoon, Fink says.
"He gave me a big hug. He said he was doing all right. He just came for 10 minutes and sat down with me. I asked him if he wanted tea. We talked about a friend who just died a week ago. He was a little bit upset. He told me he had a little bit of painting, and had enough money to get enough for the insurance on the car."
This was likely a strained and distant visit.
The visit ended soon after.
"He said, 'I gotta go do some shopping and go home.' And he was gone."
There was more to the visit; missing info here.
When he first went missing, Kienan, an occasional sleepwalker, was thought to have wandered from his bed in the night.
But as those hopes 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 suggested Thursday that police had surveillance video showing Kienan and Hopley together. On Friday, however, RCMP told reporters that 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.
At a news conference in Sparwood on Friday, 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.
Piney said that if Kienan wandered off, he is likely to be within a one-kilometre radius of his home. He said that, based on current weather conditions, a child Kienan's age would have a 70 per cent chance of surviving 96 hours on his own.
"Because there are two theories, it doesn't mean we should exclude the first (that he wandered from home on his own)," Piney told reporters Friday afternoon. "If it turns out that the person of interest is found and has an explanation for everything, what we're doing here now is Kienan's greatest chance for survival. Just because there are two theories, we work just as hard on both as we would on one."
On the ground, more than 500 people were working to find Kienan when the search effort first started on Wednesday. More than 200 people remain active in the search in and around Sparwood, often walking shoulder-to-shoulder and scouring the ground for any trace of the missing boy.
Cpl. Dan Moskaluk of the RCMP said Friday afternoon that numerous reported sightings have been relayed to police — both in B.C. and Alberta — but stressed that no sighting has been confirmed.
Moskaluk also asked anyone who may own recreational properties in the Sparwood area to check for signs of break and enter, as Hopley has a long 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," Moskaluk said.
More than 20 police investigators are interviewing people who know Hopley. They also conducted a thorough search of his residence on Friday, the back room of a dilapidated trailer he shared with a roommate.
The red and yellow mobile home sits on an unpaved road at the edge of a creek that runs parallel to the town. The area is littered with rusted old cars and camper vans with blocked windows.
"It's just something that we're covering off," Moskaluk said. "This is not the first time we've been to the residence. It's the first time we've searched it."
Orville Sheets, who owns the property, described Hopley as "fastidious."
"He didn't smoke, didn't drink, didn't do drugs," Sheets said.
The two became friends in the mid-'90s, when the pair tried to divert the creek that runs by their property, hoping to avoid a flood.
"Last time I saw him was Monday night," Sheets said.
"I can't fathom what's on his mind, or if he's done anything,"
Note that questions on what he may have "done" might cause the subject to "fathom" what on his mind. Sometimes, people just need a question or two to get the info flowing.
Sheets said. "It stupefies me that they can't find him."
Sheets knew of Hopley's long criminal record, but the former mine worker also knew the suspect had had a tough life. Hopley had a girlfriend of sorts, for a while, but "that didn't turn out very good for him," he said.
How did it turn out for the girlfriend?
Another friend, Larry MacDonald, who has known Hopley for about five years, said he'd never known him to be violent.
"He's pretty laid back and casual. I've worked with people who would throw fits and throw things around, and he's not like that," he said.
Meanwhile, police in Kamloops, B.C., about 720 kilometres west of Sparwood, were called Thursday night after a possible sighting of Hopley's vehicle, but a search effort came up empty.
"We did what could and set up checkpoints on all major exits out of the city in case this was, in fact, the vehicle . . . and made patrols, but we never did locate the vehicle," said Cpl. Cheryl Bush.
"Thankfully, our citizens are keeping their eyes open and reporting things, but at this point, there's nothing confirmed."
When Hopley was released from prison on a sexual-assault conviction, a psychiatrist told the National Parole Board that the man — then 21 — was likely to reoffend.
A family spokesman said the Heberts had never known Hopley.
— With files from the Vancouver Sun