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Serial pedophile charged in abduction of Edmonton girl

The National Post, Ben Gelinas, Canwest News Service, October 07, 2008

EDMONTON -- A man who was declared a long-term offender and sent to prison in 2002 for molesting six children was charged Monday with drugging and sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl abducted in Edmonton on the weekend.

Police allege the man kidnapped the girl Sunday while she played with her brothers, ages five and nine, in front of her home.

Danial Todd Gratton, 44, was arrested early Monday morning in a house a few blocks from the Belmont Elementary School grounds where the girl was abducted.

Police also seized a blue Jeep Liberty with a licence plate similar to the one on the vehicle the girl was lured into.

When he was arrested in December 2000, Mr. Gratton admitted to police that he had repeatedly abused five girls and a boy between 1996 and 2000, including one child he admitted assaulting at least 70 times over a six-month period. The children were ages two and eight.

He was sentenced in 2002 to six years in prison and declared a long-term offender. In a tearful police interview, he asked officers to protect him from his sickness because he couldn't stop himself, Mr. Gratton's lawyer, Peter Royal, said at the sentencing.

Mr. Gratton wanted treatment to help him deal with sexual fantasies that will never go away, Mr. Royal said at the time.

Mr. Gratton was banned from public places where children gather and placed on a supervision order for 10 years after his release. It's not known when he was released from prison.

On Sunday, a seven-year-old was lured into a vehicle by a man who told her he had kittens for sale, police allege.

The girl's mother was in their townhouse across the street when her daughter was driven away. The girl's father said her brothers ran home in a panic.

An Amber Alert was issued, and police searched for a blue Jeep Liberty with a license plate ending in 179. The girl was wearing a peach-coloured, floral dress.

She appeared calm and apparently unharmed when she was dropped off four hours later at a restaurant in Wildwood, about 120 kilometres west of Edmonton.

Sandy Wu was in the restaurant kitchen and said the girl was carrying $10 and a note that read: "I'm dropped off from Edmonton. Please bring me home safe."

The girl told Ms. Wu she had been with "Daddy's friend."

But her father said Monday his daughter did not know the man who picked her up at the school yard.

"How could anybody hurt a child?" her father said, after learning that sexual assault charges had been laid. "I guess there's going to be a trial now. I hope he'll get his."

When the girl was reunited with her parents Sunday night, her father said she seemed groggy and fragile. Police later told him they performed a drug test as part of their investigation.

"She said she slept most of the way in the vehicle," said Evansburg RCMP Const. Doug Lee, who recovered the girl in Wildwood.

The neighbourhood where the seven-year-old girl was abducted is a few blocks from the Hermitage area, where Mr. Gratton was arrested. The area has several schools, a playground and park.

"To the other families out there: watch your children," the victim's father said. "Guard them. Have eyes in the back your head."

Mr. Gratton was charged Monday with sexual assault, sexual interference, kidnapping, abduction of a person under 14 and administering a noxious substance. He is in custody awaiting a bail hearing.

Edmonton Journal