WATCH: The man accused in a violent sex crime against a little girl on a first nation was in court. The case was put over, but family members were very emotional. Eric Szeto was there.
EDMONTON — The man accused in a brutal sex assault on a young girl made his first court appearance Wednesday morning at the Stony Plain courthouse.
James Clifford Paul, 21, is charged with attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault, and kidnapping of a six-year-old girl in a community west of Edmonton.
Paul appeared in court via CCTV, and the case was put over until next week. Several of the young girl’s family members were in attendance. It was an emotional experience for Violet Poitras, a Paul First Nation elder.
“When I saw him I was scared,” said Poitras.
“My heart was pounding when I saw him because, not only does it refresh everything that happened that day, but for some of us women that have been abused or attacked in some way when we were young, it opens up wounds and pain.”
“I pray for him also because he needs prayers, too,” she added. Poitras said the community has been holding prayer sessions to try to heal, adding the attack was something the community had “never experienced at that level before.”
“It’s hard. It’s difficult, but we’re going to make it because it doesn’t matter what anyone says about us; we’re still a strong community. That holds us together with our culture and our prayers.”
Family says will never be able to forgive after what happened to 6 y/o. Band members say James Paul will not be welcomed back on reserve.
— Eric Szeto (@Eric_Szeto) January 7, 2015
On Dec. 20 at the Paul First Nation, the six-year-old girl was found outside in the snow, naked. Global News spoke with several members of the child’s family who claim she was severely beaten and raped.
The girl was airlifted to the Stollery Children’s Hospital with “traumatic injuries related to blunt trauma,” where she remained in a coma for several days before waking up. The child continues to recover at the Stollery. A family member says the child was living with a family member through the Kinship Care program when she was attacked.
In a news conference after the attack, Superintendent Gary Steinke, with RCMP K Division said the case has had a huge impact on the community and the police officers.
It has also had an impact on the family of the accused.
In an interview with Global News, Ramona and James Strong – Paul’s parents – said they’ve had to flee the Paul First Nation due to violent threats against their family. Two days after the attack and with the help of RCMP, the couple and their eight other children moved from their home on the reserve to an unknown location.
James Clifford Paul has a history with police and was already facing criminal charges – including unlawful confinement – prior to the most recent charges. He will remain in custody until his next court appearance on Jan. 14.
Paul First Nation is about 35 kilometres southwest of Stony Plain, near Wabamun Lake.
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