Former Sask. group home caregiver pleads guilty to sexually assaulting residents

Brent Gabona has pleaded guilty to sex crimes against group home residents.  (Brent Gabona/Facebook - image credit)
Brent Gabona has pleaded guilty to sex crimes against group home residents. (Brent Gabona/Facebook - image credit)

Brent Gabona, a former care home worker, has admitted to abusing the vulnerable adults he was supposed to be helping.

On Wednesday, Gabona pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault and two counts of the sexual exploitation of a person with a disability.

The abuse occurred during a 17-year period while Gabona worked at Shepherd's Villa, a group home for people with severe cognitive and physical disabilities in Hepburn, Sask.

Gabona's victims couldn't speak or care for themselves. They needed one-on-one help for tasks like eating, bathing or putting on their clothes.

"I'm hoping that Brent Gabona will spend many years in prison," said Rick Boguski, brother and caregiver to Darryl — one of Gabona's victims.

The Boguski brothers drove hours from their Alberta home to attend the court matter in-person at the Lions community hall in Rosthern, Sask. Meanwhile, Gabona entered his guilty pleas by phone.

"Brent Gabona raped my brother for up to 17 years. The fact that he can enter a guilty plea from the comfort of his home while my brother stands here today, I think, speaks volumes about the justice system and this case in particular," Rick said.

Gabona was charged last May with abusing five care home residents at Shepherd's Villa, with the abuse beginning in 1992. In June, the Boguskis successfully applied to the court to have the publication ban on Darryl's name lifted. They have been advocating publicly for accountability and change ever since.

Darryl is blind and has cerebral palsy, autism and severe epilepsy. Rick said Darryl is doing remarkably well, despite suffering horrific abuse for years.

"It's been really hard, because we talk about Gabona from time to time and I have to reassure Darryl that he is safe and nothing like that is going to happen again," he said.

Kimberly Ivany/CBC
Kimberly Ivany/CBC

While Rick is focused on keeping Darryl safe, he is not confident Gabona will face appropriate consequences within the criminal justice system. Because Gabona pleaded guilty, there will not be a trial. Gabona's lawyer also requested that Gabona's mental health be considered for the pre-sentencing report.

Rick said it feels like institutions meant to protect the vulnerable are failing, adding they haven't seen accountability or co-operation from the government or the government-run group home. That's why he has filed a civil lawsuit against Gabona, the government, the care home and Gabona's mother, a former supervisor at the group home who worked there when Darryl was a resident.

"We will seek the answers that the Crown and the police have not been able to gather," Rick said. "I want there to be justice, and I don't think there will be justice until Brent Gabona accounts for all of his crimes, including what he did to Darryl and everyone else."

Rick and other family members of former group home residents believe Gabona, who worked at the home until 2009, preyed upon more than five people.

Al and Naomi Hawkins were also in attendance at court on Wednesday, showing support for the Boguski family. They believe their son Derek was a victim of Gabona, who spent years providing one-on-one care for Derek. They say Derek's behaviour changed drastically after Gabona came into his life.

However, the Hawkins' son was not one of the victims noted by police. The family has been pushing police to take a closer look.

Al said Gabona's guilty pleas show that "it's not an allegation, that it's the truth, that it happened, that over a number of years there was abuse at Shepherd's Villa."

Gabona's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 11 in Rosthern.