CBC News Posted: Sep 11, 2011 5:21 AM PT. Last Updated: Sep 11, 2011 4:17 PM PT
A frantic four-day search for a missing three-year-old came to an abrupt and happy end in British Columbia on Sunday when Kienan Hebert was mysteriously returned safe to his family's home, apparently by his alleged abductor.
"To the person who returned Kienan safely, I just want to say thank you," Paul Hebert, Kienan's father, said at a 4 p.m. MT news conference. "It was the right thing to do.
"Kienan is happily home, and he's playing with his brothers and sisters," Hebert said, before choking up.
Hospital staff examined the boy and found he was physically unharmed, Cpl. Dan Moskaluk told reporters.
Moskaluk also made an appeal to the alleged abductor, Randall Hopley, 46, to turn himself in: "Do the right thing and call us. Call the police."
RCMP learned of the boy's remarkable reunion with his family after someone phoned 911 around 3 a.m. PT, instructing police to go to the Hebert home, which had been cordoned off and unoccupied since the family found the boy missing Wednesday morning.
When police arrived at the Hebert home Sunday morning, they found Kienan on the couch, holding his blanket, the CBC's Bob Keating reported from Sparwood.
"It's an emotional scene as you can imagine here in front of the Hebert home — the family hugging each other and weeping. Paul Hebert, the dad, came out and gave a thumbs-up to the media, obviously elated, perhaps overwhelmed by these turn of events," Keating said.
"Kienan himself even came out of the Hebert home, hugging relatives tightly and smiling, looking healthy considering what this little boy has alleged to have gone through."
At around 5 a.m. Cpl. Dan Moskaluk, who had been the RCMP media liaison in the Hebert case, tweeted the good news with enthusiasm: "OMG I can confirm that Kienan Hebert was returned by suspect @ around 3 a.m."
Moskaluk followed up with a second elated tweet: "Please RT Kienan Hebert 3yr old Sparwood child is safe and sound. Within 12 hours of family plea for return, child returned by suspect. :)"
"Great news!" said Dave Elliott, a neighbour who was among four or five people up early and gathered outside the house where the Heberts had been staying while police were combing through the family home for clues.
Sparwood's acting mayor, Sharon Fraser, was relieved as she walked over to visit the Hebert's after hearing the news.
"Oh, my God: The U.S. is remembering their dead with September 11th, and in Sparwood the sun is shining 'cause this little guy has been found," she said. "What more could you ask for? It's a miracle."
Suspect still at large
Police believe the suspected abductor, identified as 46-year-old Randall Hopley from the Sparwood area, brought the boy back to the Hebert house, and they are now searching for him.
Sparwood, in southeastern B.C., is 20 kilometres west of the Alberta border at Crowsnest Pass and 260 kilometres from Calgary.
On Sunday, officers were stopping motorists in the mountain community, asking whether they had seen anything suspicious.
There are questions over how someone could walk back to the home of the alleged crime with a 3-year-old and return him without police knowing what happened or seeing anything unusual at the residence.
Police made a plea to Hopley on Sunday morning, urging him to turn himself in and get the help they say he needs.
"Again, another remarkable turn of events with a police officer looking directly into the camera and saying, 'Randall, turn yourself in,'" Keating said.
A father's plea
On Saturday, the boy's parents brushed away tears as they pleaded for their son's safe return at a police-organized news conference. They appeared as police confirmed that their son had been kidnapped from his home. Kienan has a history of sleepwalking, and many were hoping he had perhaps just wandered away.
Clasping his wife's hand tightly under the table, Paul Hebert had a message for Kienan's suspected captor, who has been living in the Sparwood area.
"We're just asking, please bring Kienan to a safe place right now, OK? Like a gas station or store parking lot where he is visibly seen and you could just drop him off there okay? Walk away," Hebert said quietly.
"We just want him safe. Kienan's only three years old right now and as you know and we know Kienan can't speak, so he can't tell us who you are, right? This is your chance right now to get away. All we want is Kienan to come back with us and to be safe in our arms again."
Limited verbal skills
Moskaluk said Kienan still has limited verbal skills and agreed it was unlikely that he would be able to tell investigators anything about his abductor or lead them back to where he had been held.
"Bring him back. Drop him off in town. Make sure somebody sees him. Do it as secretly as you have to, drop the kid off and get out of Dodge."
The Heberts had last seen Kienan when they put him to bed Tuesday evening.
They reported him missing the next morning and an Amber Alert was issued in B.C. later on Wednesday. The Amber Alert was extended to Alberta as an "information alert" on Saturday.
Police also revealed on Saturday that an attempted abduction of another child in the area failed early Wednesday morning, shortly before Kienan Hebert was abducted.
In: Regional News, Other News
Tags: child abduction, kidnapping, boy, home, miracle, police, suspect at large
Location: Sparwood, British Columbia, Canada (load item map)
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