Foster home sex assault case against 13-year-old boy 'horrifying,' Calgary police say

Foster home sex assault case against 13-year-old boy 'horrifying,' Calgary police say

By Sherri Zickefoose and Jason van Rassel, Calgary HeraldJanuary 6, 2012

CALGARY — Police are calling charges against a 13-year-old boy accused of sexually assaulting his three young foster home brothers “shocking” and “horrifying.”

The teen, who cannot be identified, is facing six sex charges after being arrested Tuesday. Police were called by a third party to a southwest foster home at 9:40 p.m. for a sexual assault complaint witnessed that day.

He remains in custody awaiting a bail hearing Monday.

The boy was living in the same foster home as the victims. who are ages six, four and two, according to police.

The rare case is “horrifying,” said child abuse unit Det. Stephen Johnston, who could recall only one other case involving an accused so young.

“This one, I dare say, is more shocking than most,” he said.

The accused had been living in the foster home for “quite a long time, a number of years,” said Johnston.

Police say they’re looking into the possibility that the alleged assaults had been ongoing.

There may be more victims, investigators say.

“That is a concern of ours,” said Johnston. “Given we’re dealing with very vulnerable people, we’re looking to learn if there were others.”

The diminutive, shaggy-haired teen, who appeared in youth court Thursday morning wearing a dark, baggy sweatshirt, answered Judge Stephen Lipton’s questions politely.

The teen remains in custody and is scheduled to appear in court again Monday for a bail hearing.

Lipton asked duty counsel James Conley and Crown prosecutor Marta Juzwiak if the Calgary Young Offender Centre had made arrangements in light of the allegations against the boy.

“I don’t know if he’s sharing a room with somebody else, but I’d be concerned if he is,” the judge said.

Police say they had been called to the southwest home in the past, but only for reports of an overdue bike ride.

On Tuesday, a call from a third party “with direct knowledge” alerted police to the house.

“This has been a horrifying experience for the witness as well. They’ve suffered,” said Johnston.

The 13-year-old boy, who cannot be named under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, has been charged with three counts of sexual assault and three counts of sexual interference.

The province has removed the children from the southwest foster home, which is shut down during an investigation by Alberta Human Services, which oversees children’s welfare.

Officials can’t say whether lack of supervision played a role in the sex abuse allegations.

“Any time there is an incident, we do conduct an investigation. Typically, we would assess the situation and make sure the children are safe and if they need to be in a new placement,” said spokeswoman Roxanne Dube Coelho.

“The kids would be removed and placed in a new home.”

Medical and psychological supports are being offered to the young victims, Dube Coelho said.

While foster homes are subject to regular monitoring by the province, no one can say how often the victims’ home was checked on due to privacy regulations, said Dube Coelho.

“We do checks on a regular basis, making sure kids are safe. We do ongoing monitoring.”