Man pleads guilty to abduction of teen girl that prompted Amber Alert

Wilbur Crockwell, 73, appears at a bail hearing at provincial court in St. John's in June 2023. (Ryan Cooke/CBC - image credit)

Wilbur Crockwell, 73, is pleading guilty to abducting a 14-year-old girl last year in a case that prompted a rare Amber Alert in Newfoundland.

Crockwell's case was called Wednesday morning in St. John's, where his lawyer, Robert Hoskins, said he'll be entering a guilty plea on the charge of abducting a person under the age of 16. He's also expected to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit abduction.

Hoskins said they'll be asking the court for a pre-sentence report, which will provide the judge with information on Crockwell's background before deciding on a sentence.

The girl, who cannot be named due to a publication ban on her identity, was reported missing on June 2, 2023. An Amber Alert was issued six days later, when the police obtained information that led them to believe her disappearance was an abduction.

According to evidence given at Crockwell's bail hearing last June, police and social workers immediately suspected Crockwell was involved in the girl's disappearance. He was her mother's former boyfriend, and social workers had concerns about his relationship with the girl. Her sister told police she was leaving St. John's to be with Crockwell, who lived in New Brunswick.

Police believe the girl was picked up at the Avalon Mall in St. John's by 69-year-old Cyril Boone and 63-year-old Erin Bast, both of whom were also charged with abduction. It's alleged they drove her to a cabin on the Bay d'Espoir Highway in central Newfoundland while Crockwell drove in from New Brunswick.

The RCMP followed Crockwell across the island after he got off the Marine Atlantic ferry in Port aux Basques, and officers arrested him in Badger when he was "driving fast and erratically," according to statements at his bail hearing.

Police then went to the cabin, picked up the girl and arrested Boone and Bast.

The court was told Boone and Crockwell grew up together in central Newfoundland in the same family. Boone and Bast said they believed the girl was Crockwell's daughter.

Family says they warned police, social workers

The girl's mother later told CBC News she had warned police and social workers about Crockwell for at least four years.

"I knew Will was involved from the beginning," she said. "I told them, 'He's the one you need to be looking for.'"

They all lived together for a short time after moving from New Brunswick to Newfoundland in 2019. The mother said the police knocked on her door the night they settled into their new home, saying a member of the public had seen Crockwell and the girl acting inappropriately while out running errands.

According to statements at the bail hearing, social workers put a "safety plan" in place for a short period of time, which involved ensuring Crockwell was out of the house. The mother said she was told her daughter would be taken into the care of the province if Crockwell came back.

The girl eventually went to live with her father in New Brunswick, but his side of the family told CBC News she continued to have contact with Crockwell and they'd called the RCMP on several occasions.

She came back to Newfoundland after her father died in late 2022.

Crockwell has a criminal record that spans from the 1960s to 1996. The most serious offences include assault, forcible confinement and escaping custody.

Crockwell, Boone and Bast are scheduled to be back in court Aug. 2, when a date for Crockwell's sentencing hearing will be set.

Download our free CBC News app to sign up for push alerts for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador. Click here to visit our landing page.