STONY PLAIN, Alta. — A member of an Alberta reserve says people in the community are still angry and in shock following an attack on a six-year-old girl a few days before Christmas.
The man accused of the crime, James Clifford Paul, made his first court appearance Wednesday in Stony Plain, west of Edmonton.
Paul faces charges of attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping.
The 21-year-old appeared briefly on closed-circuit television, standing in an orange jumpsuit with his arms crossed over his chest. The case was put over to Jan. 14 at the request of defence lawyer Arnold Piragoff.
“It’s ugly. It’s horrible. It’s really hard to accept what happened,” a woman from Paul First Nation later said outside the courthouse.
“When you think about it, you kind of stop breathing for awhile … It’s so hard to accept that it happened right at home.”
The woman said she is related to both the girl and the accused and went to court to show support for the two families. A publication ban prevents identifying the child and her family.
RCMP have described the attack as “horrific” and said the suspect knew the girl.
Relatives said she was found lying naked in the snow on the reserve Dec. 20. She was near dead and flown to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, where she remained unconscious for several days.
The girl’s grandfather also attended court Wednesday. He said she remains in hospital and may have suffered brain damage.
Paul’s parents said earlier this week that threats of violence since his arrest have forced them and their other children to move off the reserve. RCMP helped transport them to an undisclosed Edmonton-area hotel and they’re not sure if they’ll ever be able to go home.
“While the little girl is a victim and the injuries she has suffered are very, very serious, our family and our other eight children are now also victims,” Ramona and James Strong said in a statement.
“Our oldest son stands accused and we understand this. But we do have faith and confidence in the RCMP investigators and Canadian courts that there will be a fair trial on the very serious charges laid against him.”