On Watch

A Common Thread

Posted: Nov 29, 2012 10:42 AM ET Last Updated: Nov 29, 2012 10:42 AM ET
One thing I like about my job is the variety. I am not trapped in an office cubicle, shuffling papers from one box to another. Instead, I never know from one day to the next where the news will take me.

But over the past few days there's been a theme to my work; a disturbing theme.

It started early last week when I found myself in Lower Sackville, talking to Len MacKean's neighbours, to help my colleague Elizabeth Chiu figure out who he is. The neighbours talked of a father, grandfather and retired worker who even mowed some of their lawns.

But police were telling us that last September, MacKean went to a cabin in Lunenburg County and sexually assaulted a 16-year-old boy. The information tied MacKean to the infamous forcible confinement case that grabbed national headlines and resulted in a manhunt that ended in northern Ontario.

From a retired businessman to one who's not allowed near his business. Michael Kevin Stanhope is accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl. The Crown says more complainants and more charges are coming. Stanhope's bail restrictions have just been loosened. But he's still not allowed to go to the beauty supply store he owns in downtown Halifax.

I capped the week with a trip to Yarmouth for the sentencing of Albert Leblanc.

The 83-year-old former priest had pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault. Most of the charges stem from when Leblanc was a parish priest in the Yarmouth area, at a time when priests weren't just God's representatives, they had almost god-like sway in the community. No one dared question a priest's authority, and Leblanc exploited that as he stalked and abused young boys.

Some of those boys, now middle-aged men, sat behind him in court, surrounded by supporters. One of them sobbed quietly as sentence was pronounced. The stout old man who'd been their tormentor so many years ago stared straight ahead without once looking in their direction. He offered no explanation or apology as he was led off to begin his 5 1/2 year sentence.

This strange journey seemed to come full circle, as I found myself on Monday revisiting the Lunenburg cabin, via Dartmouth provincial court.

I watched as David James Leblanc was wheeled in by Sheriff's deputies. Leblanc, along with MacKean, is accused in the forcible confinement case. That isn't why he was in a wheelchair being led into Dartmouth court. He was there to answer to older charges, charges involving child pornography and the abuse of two very young boys. The charges date from 2010.

Almost exactly a year ago, I was in Dartmouth court, watching Leblanc appear on those same charges. At the time, he appeared with his life partner, and alleged partner in crime, Wayne Cunningham. Cunningham was to become the third suspect in the Lunenburg forcible confinement case. But he did not live to face the charges, having been found dead in northern Ontario after the manhunt.

In 2011, Cunningham and Leblanc looked lost and bewildered wandering around the Dartmouth court house, looking to sign documents to secure Leblanc's release. This week when Leblanc appeared in that same court house on the same charges, he looked shrunken and haggard and frail. No one who saw him being wheeled through the building could believe he's only 47. Two years after the alleged offences, one year after his first appearance and Leblanc's case is still no further ahead. And now his case is complicated by the additional charges from the forcible confinement case.

So four different stories, four different days, four different locations. One common thread.
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About the Author

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 30 years in Atlantic Canada, covering everything from princes to politicians to prostitutes, and a whole lot of stuff in between. These days, he focusses on stories involving crime and public safety.

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