As I watched the story unfold in fall 2011, I sensed God’s hand. An expert in the field of child abduction said in his 25 years of experience, he had seen nothing like it.
It was unusual as it was miraculous.
But it wasn’t until a few days later that it came to light the parents – Paul and Tammy Hebert — were Christians and hours of prayer by them, friends and members of the Baptist church they attended had gone up for the safe return of the abducted child. The Heberts who have eight children also homeschooled.
On the morning of Wednesday, September 7th, 2011, the Heberts awoke in their home in Sparwood, British Columbia to find their three-year-old son Kienan missing. Initially they thought he had disappeared while sleep walking, but disturbing evidence suggested something far more sinister.
They called the RCMP and within hours the police confirmed during the night someone had broken into the Hebert’s home via a door mistakenly left unlocked and taken their son.
The police issued an Amber alert notifying the public about the missing child and stating they believed Sparwood-resident Randall Hopley had kidnapped Kienan. The RCMP also reported there had been an unsuccessful attempt at a child abduction in Sparwood just before Kienan’s kidnapping and Hopley was again the prime suspect.
Who is Randall Hopley?
“Rescue me, O Lord from evil men; Preserve me from violent men. Who devise evil things in their hearts … Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked…” Psalm 140:1, 2 & 4 NASV
46-year old Randall Hopley was a known criminal. Police charged Hopley with sexual assault in 1985 and he received a two-year sentence for what media reports said involved “matters relating to children.”
In 2007, he was also charged with the attempted kidnapping of a 10-year-old mentally challenged boy, but due to lack of evidence these charges were dropped as Hopley claimed he was returning the boy living in foster care to his parents. Hopley was sentenced to 18 months in jail on charges of break and enter.
Hopley continued his criminal activity and over the next few years faced 12 charges of break and enter and theft. One incident involved Ed Skapin’s family cabin located in Crowsnest Pass in Albera. In May 2010, the family arrived at their cabin and found Hopley living there. Hopley, who had been there a few months, pleaded for the family to let him stay. Instead they phoned the RCMP and when they arrived found the cabin full of stolen equipment.
Hopley was charged with theft and break and enter.
But according to the Skapin family what was even more disturbing was how Hopley turned their cabin into a “sex lair.” And described their cabin as “a house of horrors.” In an interview with Sun News, the family said they found:
Sex toys, various lotions and lubricants, diapers, children’s movies and “hundreds” of pieces of kids’ clothing were strewn among boxes of chocolate bars and Twinkies.”
The Skapins were stunned Hopley was released shortly after this incident, pending trial, saying the sexual paraphernalia should have raised all sorts of alarms, particularly since Hopley had a previous charge of sexual assault.
The miraculous return of Kienan
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” Psalm 50:15 NASV
If Hopley was Kienan’s kidnapper, it represented a disturbing turn of events.
Hundreds volunteered to search the area for Kienan. The Hebert family made public appeals for the safe return of their youngest child.
And then there was prayer, as the Hebert family, friends and their church community prayed for Kienan’s safe return.
The miracle they prayed for occurred just four days later.
At 3:07 AM Sunday morning (September 11, 2011), the police received a 911 call stating the boy had been returned to his home. The Hebert family were staying with friends at the time and the house was empty.
When police showed up at the Hebert home, they found Kienan sitting in an old brown chair underneath three blankets taken at his kidnapping. Kienan had not been harmed physically or sexually and was seen playing in the front yard the very next day.
In the middle of the night, the kidnapper secretly returned Kienan to the very home from which he was kidnapped. The dramatic return of Kienan shocked experts in the field of child abduction by strangers.
In an interview with the National Post, Ernie Allen, president of the Virginia-based National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, said:
“For an abductor to take a child in this manner — to penetrate the home, to come into the home to take the child — and then to return the child back to the home is in many ways unprecedented. We’ve worked thousands of these cases and I don’t remember one like it.”
Crystal Dunahee, president of Child Find Canada, speaking to The Globe and Mail said the kidnapping of children by strangers “Very rarely have they had happy endings.” Ms Dunahee’s own son has been missing for twenty years. A study by the RCMP of five children abducted by strangers in 2000 and 2001 found four of the children had been murdered.
Sharon Fraser the acting mayor of Sparwood said, “It’s just like having a miracle happen.”
In fact a major Canadian national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, described the event as miraculous in an article titled, “B.C. boy safe in ‘miracle’ return; suspected abductor at large.”
But the story doesn’t end there
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37 NIV
“But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.” Mathew 5:44 NASV
Though Kienan was returned safely, the RCMP continued their search for Hopley. Ironically, the RCMP using tracking dogs captured Hopley a few days later “hiding out in an unused Bible camp near the mountainous Alberta-B.C. border.”
Shortly after Hopley’s capture, the RCMP asked Paul Hebert if he would meet with their son’s kidnapper. Paul agreed and in an interview with CBC news shortly after, Paul said he prayed he wouldn’t explode at Hopley during the meeting. Paul added when the meeting did take place an incredible peace came over him.
Paul stated that both he and his wife have forgiven Hopley. It was their faith that helped them to do this.
“Anger feeds anger and hate feeds hate,” Paul said in the CBC interview. “I don’t want to look at Kienan and be angry and hateful [towards Hopley] because of what happened to him, everytime I look at him.”
- ‘Unprecedented’ for kidnapper to return boy, expert says by Tom Blackwell (Nationalpost, September 12, 2011)
- Justice system ‘failed us,’ says abducted boy’s father by Jen Gerson (Postmedia News: September 12, 2011)
- B.C. boy safe in ‘miracle’ return; suspected abductor at large (The Globe and Mail, September 12, 2011)
- Randall Hopley faces charges of kidnapping, child abduction (The Star: September 13, 2011)
- B.C. kidnap suspect reportedly had ‘sex lair’ QMI Agency September 14, 2012
- Abducted B.C. boy’s parents forgive suspect (CBC: October 7, 2011)