The wheels of justice are turning slowly in a bizarre kidnapping case involving allegations of cult brainwashing and a woman abducted off a Hamilton street by her own family.
The preliminary hearing stalled in mid-September after defence counsel Peter Boushy challenged a series of rulings by the presiding judge and sought to have Ontario Court Justice Bernd Zabel overruled by a higher court.
That stalled Boushy’s cross-examination of a controversial character in the strange tale, Pastor Peter Rigo of the Dominion Christian Centre (DCC) on Park Street North.
Boushy’s application was dismissed on March 7 by Superior Court Justice Nick Borkovich. The defence is now appealing Borkovich’s decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal. A tribunal is expected to hear the argument on May 1.
The preliminary hearing, which was scheduled to continue yesterday, is now adjourned until July 24.
A preliminary inquiry is held to test the strength of the Crown’s case and see if there is enough evidence for a trial. It is routine at such hearings for the court to ban publication of the evidence until the charges are resolved.
Police say Mirella Brun Del Re was walking to work at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 21, 2003, when she was grabbed on Park Street and forced into a van by a group of men. They said she was taken to a secret location in Halton and held 10 days before escaping.
Five people are charged with kidnapping and forcible confinement after a religious-cult deprogrammer from Tennessee was hired to talk to Brun Del Re and try to convince her to leave the DCC.
The accused include the complainant’s father, Dr. Renato Brun Del Re, 55, a family physician; her mother Lucie Brun Del Re, 56, a Georgetown secondary school teacher; her brother, Giancarlo, 27; and two friends, Alan Honner, 27, and Theresa Honner, 29.
The kidnapping case grabbed national attention when the DCC was featured on W-Five, an investigative news program on CTV. Rigo staunchly denies the church, which draws mainly young people and incorporates a good measure of rock music in its worship, is a cult.