Gregory Thomas Simard
Credits: FILE PHOTO
Police continue to investigate the Sunday abduction and beating of a 12-year-old boy who lived at the Child and Parent Resource Centre (CPRI), a provincial centre that treats children with severe mental health and developmental delays.
The boy was in critical condition Monday at a London hospital, found with "severe trauma" in the woods behind one of the residential cottages housing some of the young patients at the facility in London's west end.
"We'll certainly want to know why the child was moved," Det. Insp. Kevin Heslop, who heads the London police major crimes unit, said Monday.
"Typically, the question that comes up is, 'Was this for a sexual purpose?' We don't have any information at this point that we can release in relation to that, but that's one of the things that we'll be looking at."
The suspect, Gregory Thomas Simard, was arrested shortly before noon Monday in a parking lot. He faces a charge of aggravated assault.
Simard, 24, graduated from Fanshawe College's two-year developmental service worker program in 2011, one of about 100 students in his class.
Developmental service workers specialize in working with children and adults with disabilities.
Simard was on a short-term, full-time contract with CPRI that started in mid-June and was to expire in mid-September.
Police said he had regular access to the boy who was assaulted and the attack was not a random act.
Officers face the delicate task of interviewing some of the other children who live at CPRI or access its services because of Simard's access to the kids.
"Because this gentlemen may have access to other children, it's routine that our investigators will speak to the other children to determine if there are other allegations," Heslop said.
"To date we have no other concerns, but the investigation is early on.
"The investigators that are working this case are from the major crimes section and from the sexual assault and child abuse section. They are handpicked, they're well-trained and experienced," he said.
Staff at CPRI are "devastated," Heslop said.
"They've been co-operative and supportive of the police investigation . . . They're concerned about the reputation of CPRI and they're concerned about their staff and the emotional toll on them."
The Ministry of Child and Youth Services that runs CPRI released a statement reassuring the public about its commitment to the "safety and security of all children and youth in our care.
"We want to express our deepest sympathy for the child involved in this tragedy. Our thoughts are with the child and the child's family -- we know this must be a tremendously difficult time," the statement said.
All staff with direct contact with clients undergo police checks, a ministry spokesperson said.
Police were called to the facility just before midnight Sunday, after staff became concerned about the boy's welfare.
A former client of Simard described the man as a "normal, nice guy."
Monday, two police cars and a forensics van sat in front of Unit 6 at CPRI.
According to the CPRI website, Unit 6 is part of a number of specialized intensive residential treatment units that treat children and youth from birth to 18 years.
Unit 6 has nine spaces for boys and girls aged six to 13 with developmental disabilities, the website said.