Friday, May 28, 2010
Sex suspect released from prison, assaulted girl
From the front porch of the blue rooming house where Greg Glen Hope lived for the last month, you can hear the sound of children laughing.
The park where a six-year-old girl was abducted and sexually assaulted sits directly across the narrow Langside Street from the house.
On Thursday morning, police announced they had arrested Hope, 34, and charged him with the crime that rocked the West End neighbourhood this week. It is alleged the suspect had attempted to befriend the child prior to the incident, police said.
Rooming house tenant Robert E. Williams was asleep on Sunday night when the attack occured. He never would have guessed his neighbour would soon become an accused child molester, he said.
"I'm shocked, because we didn't know his background," Williams said. "He sounded like a nice, quiet guy to me."
Residents said that Hope moved into a room on the house's third floor about a month ago, after being given a key by the suite's former tenant. He had recently been released from prison on a December 2009 break-and-enter conviction, although his new neighbours didn't know that.
Instead, Williams said, Hope raised little attention around the building. Hope "liked a couple of drinks after work," Williams said, and sometimes talked about his work for a landscaping company and how he hoped to get into university in September.
Williams, who has lived in the house for seven years, said he never saw Hope near the park.
"I was really shocked. He didn't seem to me like that type. But I've got a 20-year-old daughter, and if anyone did that to her... well, whatever they give him, this guy should get double that," Williams said, adding that he hopes to see better lighting installed in the area to help deter crime.
Even more disturbing for some residents was learning that, if Hope had received the sentence for the break-and-enter charge the Crown attorney sought, he would have still been behind bars the night he allegedly lured the girl away from the park. He was sentenced to six months in prison, and released earlier this spring.
"That's because the justice system sucks," said another man near the rooming house. "If he ever gets out and comes back here, if I ever see him again, me and my friends, about 15 of 'em, we're gonna stomp him. That's what happens when you mess with kids."
A 34-year-old career criminal accused of kidnapping and raping a six-year-old girl would likely have been in jail at the time of the sex attack had the Crown got their way at a recent sentencing hearing, the Free Press has learned.
Instead, the man was given a more lenient penalty which allowed him to be released from custody just a few weeks ago, allegedly paving the way for Sunday night's attack on the child.
Greg Glen Hope was arrested Wednesday and charged with child abduction and several sex-related charges, including sexual assault causing bodily harm. None of the allegations has been proven and he is presumed innocent.
Court records show Hope was sentenced on Dec. 1, 2009 for a string of offences, including break and enter and several breaches of court orders. Provincial court Judge Ray Wyant gave him six months behind bars in addition to six months of pre-trial custody. His full sentence doesn't actually expire until June 1, but Hope was recently granted early release, likely after serving two-thirds of his sentence, which is normal for Canadian criminals.
The Crown had been seeking another year in jail for Hope, citing his lengthy criminal record and history of violating court orders. Wyant didn't agree with the Crown's request, which would have taken Hope's sentence until Dec. 1, 2010 and meant he would likely have remained behind bars until later this summer.
"I really do want to change my life for myself and my children and behave properly in society," Hope told the judge at his sentencing hearing. He described the break-and-enter and breaches as "despicable things" which he blamed on unresolved alcohol and crack-cocaine addictions.
Hope has criminal convictions dating back to the mid-1990s, mostly for property crimes and breaches, but also including threats and weapons offences, court was told. He was arrested in October 2008 after breaking into a Furby Street home and stealing several bottles of alcohol and a cellphone while the residents were in another room. One of the victims ended up calling their own phone number and offering to buy back the stolen phone. Hope agreed to meet at a nearby convenience store, only to be greeted by waiting police officers.
He was granted bail several weeks later on conditions he reside at the Behavioural Health Foundation to receive ongoing addictions treatment. He fled the facility after four months, claiming he was in several relationships with female residents that had broken down. A warrant was issued for his arrest and executed last summer. He had been in custody since then until his recent release.
Hope is now accused of going to the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre near Ellice Avenue and Langside Street around 9:30 p.m. last Sunday, where the six-year-old girl was playing with several older brothers.
Police say a man tried to befriend the girl, then lured her to a nearby home where she was seriously sexually assaulted. She was eventually allowed to return to the park, where family members found her crying and missing one of her shoes. She was taken to hospital for treatment.
"An (alleged) sexual predator has been taken off the street," police Chief Keith McCaskill announced Thursday morning. Police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said the case was a top priority for investigators.
"This was and will always be, in the back of everyone's minds, one of the more horrific events we have to report," he said.
The girl's mother issued a statement Thursday through the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, praising police for their quick work and asking for privacy.
"This is a very difficult time for us and we respectfully ask that the media and the public allow us the time we need to deal with this situation," she said. Ron Evans, the Grand Chief of the AMC, said they are focused on offering the victim and her family all the resources they need. He also warned other parents to be vigilant.
"As more children spend time outside during the summer months, we ask parents, families and the greater public to be aware of the dangers in our neighborhoods," Evans said. "We also ask foot patrols and police to frequently visit areas where children and youth gather."
In hindsight, they say he should have been held longer in jail but in reality, nobody could have known based on his background of property convictions, that he would re-offend sexually in the community. He had every right to be released on statutory release. I find it interesting that this is allegedly his first sexual offence. Usually with sexual offenders, they have done it more than once. Maybe his cocaine and alcohol addictions contributed to his behaviour. I would love to know more about this man's background such as his childhood life.