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Kidnapped by her father and kept in a crawl space: Court documents reveal Montreal horror story

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When a Montreal father got a knock on his door from police officers in 2021 asking if he had seen his estranged 15-year-old daughter who was missing, he told them he didn't know where she was.

Except he knew exactly where his daughter was: he had kidnapped her hours earlier and kept her at his relatives' house where she was temporarily forced into a dark and dusty crawl space under a trap door to conceal her location from the police.

After the police had issued a missing person report to the media with her physical description, the relatives dyed her brown hair red and openly discussed asking for a potential $75,000 ransom for the teen girl, who is on the autism spectrum. She has the mental age of an eight-year-old child and has trouble recognizing dangerous situations.

The father even went so far as to send fake messages to his daughter over Facebook Messenger pleading with her to "please go home" to make it seem like he was actively searching for her.

A photo entered into evidence showing a trap door in a bedroom closet that leads to a crawl space. (Source: Court filing)

The details of the dad's plan are summarized in an agreed statement of facts filed in court after he pleaded guilty last December to public mischief and abduction of a person under 16. Both charges carry a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.

The girl's identity and any information that could identify her are protected by a publication ban.

What father did was 'callous, heartless, harmful,' mother says

Her father was scheduled to attend a sentencing hearing on Wednesday but it was postponed due to staffing issues at the Montreal courthouse. Had the proceeding gone ahead, the Crown prosecutor would have asked the judge to impose a three-year prison sentence, while the defence would have asked for house arrest.

The girl's mother was supposed to deliver a victim impact statement to the court on Wednesday but never got the chance. In an interview with CTV News at the courthouse, she said she's hopeful the judge will put her ex-husband behind bars to send a strong message.

"People are not possessions. People should not be weapons to get back at other people, especially children," she said. "And the judge's conscientious decision will hopefully deter other adults from making such a callous, heartless, harmful decision as he did."

She said she was "panicking" and losing sleep in the roughly 36 hours while her daughter was missing, all while making sure that police were aware of her suspicions that her ex-husband had something to do with it.

A man sits on a bench outside Montreal's courthouse on June 14, 2016 (CTV Montreal/Pedro Querido)

Woman recognized missing girl from CTV News report

The joint statement of facts revealed that in 2021, the girl had reconnected with her biological father in secret over social media after he had lost all parental rights years earlier. At the time, she was staying at a group home and told her father she didn't want to go back there.

That's when the dad orchestrated a plan to kidnap her. He first brought her to his brother's house, where they directed the girl under a trap door in a bedroom closet that led to a crawl space spanning the entire surface area of the apartment but was no higher than two feet tall, so she couldn't stand. After two hours, she was let out because "she was running out of air and asked to get out."

The following day, she was taken to the house of another relative and the relative's ex-wife. "While watching CTV News, she saw the profile of the missing girl," the court document stated. After seeing the news report about the disappearance, the ex-wife got into an argument with her former spouse because she wanted to report it to the police, but he refused. The woman decided to leave and go to the home of her friend, who then called 911.

Police went to the home to rescue the girl and return her to youth protection. Throughout the ordeal, the father maintained that he didn't know where she was.

"He aimed to remove all suspicions the police could have on him by lying and presenting a version of events in which he seemed cooperative and innocent of any wrongdoing," according to the court document.

Father at 'low' risk of reoffending: court document

The father, who has no prior criminal record, was assessed by a psychologist, who deemed he is at a "low" risk of reoffending, according to a pair of pre-sentence reports obtained by CTV News. The reports suggested he seek therapy to deal with his mental health and substance use issues.

The report delved into his past, revealing that he had a rough childhood and that he was "both witness and victim" to his father's violence at home for several years.

In the current case, the father "expresses what we consider to be sincere regrets," the documents state. He cited his daughter's wellbeing as justification for his actions and that seeing her again after losing her led him to "position himself as a saviour to satisfy his egocentric desires and rationalize his illegal actions."

"In hindsight, he acknowledges that he should simply have called the police. In short, he seems to minimize not only the seriousness of his action, but also their impact."

Crown prosecutor Jessica Drolet. (CTV News)

Crown prosecutor Jessica Drolet told CTV News on Wednesday that there are several aggravating factors she will put to the judge, including the child's vulnerable state, the fact that there were collateral victims, including the mother, and the amount of planning that went into the father's kidnapping scheme. 

Two of his co-accused relatives had their charges withdrawn after he agreed to a plea deal, the Crown confirmed.

The father is due back in court in September.

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