Parents believe deceased son may have been sexually assaulted at Sask. group home

Naomi and Al Hawkins say they were in “shock” and “alarmed” when they heard that the man who took care of their son at a group home in Hepburn, Sask. was facing several sexual assault charges.

Their son Derek lived at Shepherd’s Villa from 2003 to 2005. The family says their son dramatically changed during his time there, going from an enthusiastic person to engaging in violent behaviour.

“We could never figure out why, and still we may never figure out why. But I do know that if that went on (alleged sexual assaults) in that time, it had an effect on him,” Al said.

Brent Gabona, 52, is charged with five counts of sexual assault and three counts of sexual exploitation of a person with a disability for incidents alleged to have occurred at the home.

He was charged and arrested in May. Police believe the assaults took place between 1992 and 2009.

The family reached out to RCMP looking for answers as Derek died in 2011. But they didn’t get what they were expecting.

“We were asked ‘Is your son verbal?’ We said yes. We were immediately told ‘Your son was not a victim’,” Al said.

In an email to CTV News, RCMP say they could not give a response due to staffing issues on Friday.

The Hawkins believe the alleged sexual assaults may have been a reason for their son's escalating behaviour. At one point during his time at Shepherd’s Villa, he clawed out the gyproc and insulation from the walls of his room with his hands.

“The insulation of the wall was boarded up and we were called to pick him up, and we found him on a mattress with a bunch of rubble around him,” Al said.

When Derek was discharged from Shepherd’s Villa in 2005 the family requested an investigation. The family says the written assessment determined it was environmental factors that led to their son’s behaviour.

“We had no idea that prior to Derek going there and after Derek was there, that this was going on.”

The family says they’ll be attending court on July 13 when Gabona is expected to appear in person in Rosthern. Naomi and Al say they don’t have any words for him but want to support the other alleged victims and their families.