MONTREAL — A reward trip for a job well done has turned into a legal nightmare for a Quebec mother of three who is in a Bahamas jail for the alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old bearded boy she believed was an adult.
Karine Gagne's mother, Chantale Auclair, says her daughter and the American boy had a sexual encounter on a cruise ship earlier this month, but insisted that Gagne thought the six-foot-plus adolescent was 18.
"She asked him how old he was and he told her he was 18," Auclair told The Canadian Press on Thursday.
Gagne, 23, left Jan. 1 for a short cruise with her manager and colleagues for reaching certain sales objectives at a company that sells adult-themed products.
Auclair, who recently returned from the Bahamas, said her daughter told her they met the alleged victim at a casino and bar area, where they chatted and danced during the night.
"At one point, it went further," Auclair said. "They went to the bathroom and they did what they wanted to do."
The two were then confronted by the boy's mother, who filed a complaint with police despite her son's pleas to the contrary. Gagne, whose daughters are 3, 4 and 5, was later arrested and remains detained.
Auclair said several questions remain unanswered, including how a teenager found himself in an area of the ship normally reserved for adults and was allegedly drinking.
"I'm not blaming anyone, I just want her (Karine) to get out of there," said Auclair.
She added Gagne is particularly worried about the impact on her kids back in Quebec.
"She said, 'Mom, I don't want them to think I abandoned them,'" Auclair said.
Friends and relatives are using online fundraising and a benefit at a local sugar shack to try to raise money to offset Gagne's legal costs, a possible bail amount and a plane ticket home.
Gagne has two part-time jobs and Auclair said her daughter can't afford to pay all the costs by herself.
"She needs me and I need her too, it's very hard," said Auclair, fighting back tears. "It's very hard, but I have to be strong for her — I will do it all for her."
Gagne remains detained pending her next court appearance on Feb. 3.
Her father, Steve Gagne, is also raising funds separately and said he's been told legal fees could cost as much as US$15,000.
He said he hasn't been able to speak directly to his daughter and has heard different things about what happened that night.
"We hope for the best," he said. "It would be favourable if it all ended then (on Feb. 3), but we'll see how it goes."
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press