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Board deemed sex offender a risk years before he was accused of killing woman, child

EDMONTON — Four years before a mother and her 16-month-old son were killed in western Alberta, police had warned the public that a registered sex offender would be released and there was a chance he could harm “a female, including children.
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EDMONTON — Four years before a mother and her 16-month-old son were killed in western Alberta, police had warned the public that a registered sex offender would be released and there was a chance he could harm “a female, including children.”

Robert Major, 53, faces two counts of second-degree murder in last week's deaths of Mchale Busch, 24, and her son, Noah McConnell. Major has also been charged with causing an indignity to human remains. 

RCMP have said the woman and her son died Sept. 16 — the day before they were reported missing — and their bodies discovered Sept. 17 in Major's apartment in Hinton, about 290 kilometres west of Edmonton.

In July 2017, Edmonton police issued a public warning that Major would be living in the community. It is unclear when he moved to Hinton.

"The Edmonton Police Service has reasonable grounds to believe he will commit another sexual offence against a female, including children, while in the community," a news release read.

This week, RCMP said in a statement that Major had not been subject to any recognizance conditions since July 2020. It's unclear whether Hinton residents were warned when he came to town.

Cody McConnell, Busch's fiancé and Noah's father, said they recently moved into the apartment building and had no idea they were living near a sex offender.

"The system failed Mchale and Noah by not letting us know we moved in next to a convicted sexual offender whom the police had reasonable grounds to believe (would) commit another offence," McConnell told media outside court in Edson, Alta., earlier this week.

The National Sex Offender Registry Database, which allows police to do searches based on information that has been collected, is not available to landlords or any other member of the public. 

McConnell and his family said they want that changed, especially for those who are considered likely to reoffend. 

"I feel like this should never happen to any other family ever again," McConnell said. 

Three Parole Board of Canada documents from 2016 and 2017 show there were serious concerns about Major.

The board cited a 2013 psychological report that said he posed a high risk for impulsive behaviour and a high risk of sexually harming someone he deemed weaker than himself. 

"The (psychological) report cites your repeated rationalization as a defence against insight, which suggests you have a limited awareness of the impact of your actions on others," the parole board documents said.

The board also noted that Major was sentenced to three years, 10 months and 30 days for an offence in 2012, in which he took a toddler from a babysitter's care for an unsupervised walk and sexually assaulted the child. 

"File information indicates that you admitted to being sexually aroused by this assault and that you stated that you committed the offence for 'the thrill of it,'" the documents said

The documents indicated that Major was charged with sexual assault in 2006 and sexual interference in 2013. The first charge was stayed and the other withdrawn.

In 2015, while serving a sentence for the sexual assault on the toddler, Major was accused of inappropriately touching another inmate.

"Reports note that you have been diagnosed with substance abuse disorders, cognitive disorders, personality disorders, anti-social personality disorders, query epilepsy and low intelligence functioning," the documents said.

They also said Major completed a national moderate intensity sex offender program in 2015. He worked closely with mental health nurses, attended church and connected with pastors.

"It was noted that the pastors were aware of your criminal history and welcomed you into the parish, offering you support."

The documents said he was granted statutory release in February 2016, and some of his leave privileges were revoked in 2017.

The board said this week that it could not disclose Major's warrant expiry date, which is the conclusion of an inmate's sentence when he is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Correctional Service of Canada.

Major's next court appearance is Oct. 20. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2021.

— With files from CTV

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press