What To Make Of This Story Out Of British Columbia?

It’s not the usual ending to this kind of story.  A beautiful little three year old boy is abducted by a long time child sex offender.

Need I go further to describe the usual ending?

Only this time, the parents make a public and emotional plea:  just give him back, don’t hurt him, he won’t remember anything.  Just give him back and run.

And that’s what the guy does.

Would the parents rather have their little boy back, or a culprit to be put on trial?  Does the question even need to be asked?

The police are now hunting the suspect.  I guess they have to.  But somehow, even if they catch him – which they probably will at some point – the parents should keep their end of the bargain, shouldn’t they?  Or should they?  I mean the implicit end of the bargain:  they won’t seek “justice”.  The state may have to do what it has to do, but the parents have to seek mercy, not justice.  Mercy is what the suspect showed to them, and to their little boy, isn’t it?

The government has a hard time with a situation like this.  The most relevant parties – the suspect and the parents – may have transcended the tawdry little morality plays we like to put on when we get the “criminal”.

I’d be interested to know what others think.  Really interested.




Filed under wrongful convictions

6 responses to “What To Make Of This Story Out Of British Columbia?

  1. John Kindley

    It is better that a hundred guilty go free than for one innocent to suffer. In this case, the boy may have already suffered, and his parents certainly have, but they just as certainly could have suffered far more if the abductor had been more evil than he appears to be. Justice is the absence of crime. The government of course needs to pursue the suspect. If they can prove he was the abductor, they need to lock him up, because if he’s guilty he’s obviously a dangerous man. The goal of justice — the absence of crime — demands that he be locked up so that he’s not free to commit other crimes. But this case, and the pleas of the parents, and the response of the suspect to those pleas, supports the view of those who hold that justice is not primarily about vengeance.


    • We have the problem of justice versus mercy. They are in conflict. Justice requires that a wrong be paid for. Mercy permits the wrong to be forgiven.

      No question, the child molester has shown mercy. He could have killed the child. So many times, this is what happens. But the plea was made and he heard the plea and he was merciful.

      What now? Shall we show no mercy to him who has shown mercy?

      In our estimation he is the lowest of the low. Even felons revile the child molester. And yet he shows mercy. We refuse to do likewise. Are we then lower than him?

      Or we show him mercy. Does that encourage other wrongs?

      Or we don’t. Does that seal the fate of others similarly situated? That aside, have we erred in not returning kindness for kindness?

      I don’t have an answer here. I think of the parents. They said leave him and run. Please. So he does that. What happens when he is caught?

      Shall we praise him for not doing the evil he could easily have done? Maybe we should, without condoning the evil he did do. But how do you do that?


  2. Rob

    What’s with the cop telling the kidnapper to reach out to the police? That’s laughable.

    Anyway, I don’t see why the parents have to seek anything. We are talking about a best case outcome. Every time the parents look at the boy, they will be reminded of how lucky they are. I’m not going to say they should thank the kidnapper, but the degree of perspective they just attained is priceless. I mean, most people will never feel the gratitude and relief the parents just experienced. It ought to effect them and how they raise the kid forever.

    As for what the kidnapper showed the parents, I’m not sure what that is. Did he show mercy? Maybe. But maybe he showed guilt? Or some combination of the two. Or maybe the plea made him a new person and not giving the kid back would have made him feel so disgusted he couldn’t live with himself. And that doesn’t seem quite like mercy to me.


    • According to Answers.com: mercy=compassionate treatment, especially of those under one’s power. Among other things.

      Yes the parents were lucky, but the kidnapper was also merciful, though he is still a kidnapper and as Kindley points out, dangerous.

      But if the act of kidnapping can’t be ignored – and it can’t – then can the act of mercy? Problem is, it can be ignored and probably will be, at least by the system.

      I don’t think it should be ignored. I’m not at all sure how to account for it, though.

      Back in Rochester the local newspaper is running a series on the 40th anniversary of the Attica uprising, which was right up the road. After 40 years people are still having a lot of trouble dealing with the fact, the indisputable fact, that the prisoners showed as much or more mercy to their hostages than the state showed them.

      We want a comfortable, simple narrative about these things. It seems we’re often somewhat incapable of a better understanding more reflective of reality.


  3. Rebecca

    If we hope to influence future kidnappers at all – and there will be many as we know – then we most definitely should not ignore an act of mercy and should make certain that the acknowledgement is significant enough to encourage others to do the same when they are at a point of doubt which I’m sure many come to. It is our only chance to legitimize future distraught parents’ pleas for release of their child.. Think of the impact of this case on future events. It will mean a great deal to the next parents & child who find themselves in this situation…


  4. I agree with you completely. I mean, that was the idea I was getting at, apparently not as well as you. I should have just come right out with it.

    A lot of people might agree, too. But the difficulty comes when you try to fill in the blanks: just what kind of acknowledgment would be “significant enough”? How much of a pass on the bad act to acknowledge the good one? I mean, what specifically would you see done to the guy?

    Do you have any thoughts on that?


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