7 more victims come forward in Alberta child abuse investigation, more charges laid

Three weeks after Alberta RCMP released initial information about a “lengthy child abuse investigation,” the case has expanded to include more charges after seven new victims came forward.

At the time, three adults had been arrested, including Sherina Maria Handsor, 43, of Sandy Beach.

She was arrested on April 8 and charged with assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon and forcible confinement in connection with allegations of historical physical and sexual child abuse in Edson between 2005 and 2011.

Sherina Maria Handsor, 43, of Sandy Beach.
Sherina Maria Handsor, 43, of Sandy Beach, Alta. Alberta RCMP

At that time, police said investigators believed the case was much bigger.

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“We had a feeling there were other victims out there — that’s why we did our original news release and released photos of these suspects, hoping that some victims that were holding on to this information might come forward,” RCMP public information officer Cpl. Troy Savinkoff said on Tuesday.

Five new victims have come forward to the RCMP, alleging historical child abuse offences while in Handsor’s care in Whitecourt and Quesnel, B.C.

RCMP said it also identified two additional victims, totalling seven new victims of suspected child abuse.

“I’m afraid we’re dealing with a lot of victims. There’s a lot of ages — I don’t know the specific ages of all of them. They were all clearly young people though,” Savinkoff said.

“These are very disturbing things that we’re investigating.”

On April 29, RCMP charged Sherina Maria Handsor with 13 additional charges related to historical child abuse including:

• Seven counts of failure to provide necessities of life
• Assault with a weapon
• Assault causing bodily harm
• Three counts of assault
• Two counts of administering a noxious substance

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Handsor was taken before a justice of the peace and remains into custody. Her next court appearance is set for May 1 at the courthouse in Stony Plain.

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Police said following the initial arrest of Handsor, the RCMP Serious Crimes Branch also arrested Nicole Kathleen Barrett, 45, of Whitecourt, Alta. in connection with the same investigation.

Nicole Kathleen Barrett, 45, of Whitecourt, Alta.
Nicole Kathleen Barrett, 45, of Whitecourt, Alta. Alberta RCMP

RCMP said the two women know each other but couldn’t say exactly how.

“I don’t know exactly what the nature of that relationship, but everybody involved in this investigation are all connected. They all know each other,” Savinkoff said.

On April 24, 2024, RCMP arrested and charged Nicole Barrett with three counts of failure to provide necessities of life and one count of assault.

Barrett appeared before a justice of the peace and was released on bail, including conditions that restrict contact with the victims. Barrett’s next court appearance is set for May 28 at the Whitecourt courthouse.

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RCMP said information received during the investigation suggests there may still be even more people who have information regarding the involvement of Sherina Handsor and Nicole Barrett in alleged offences against children.

“We still believe there could be more victims. We’d like them to look at what’s going on with these investigations, the fact that there are additional things proceeding in court. And we’re asking all potential victims of this group or anybody else that might be associated, or have information to please come forward,” Savinkoff said.

Savinkoff said police believe many childhood abuse survivors live with their trauma silently.

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“It’s one of those crimes, unfortunately, that isn’t reported nearly as much as we’d like. I think a lot of people hold on to that information or try to move on with their lives and not bring these things back up,” he said.

He hopes the news of the arrests and charges gives those survivors the courage to speak up.

“I think these (news releases) bring back some memories for them, maybe things that they’ve been dealing with and they’ve been quiet about.

“Maybe this is the opportunity for them. They start to realize how much it’s affected them and they decide to come forward.”

Savinkoff noted due to the historic nature of the offences, a lot of the victims no longer live in the area where the alleged crimes occurred.

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Previous charges in case

Two other adults were also charged earlier this year in the investigation that began with the alleged historic offences in Edson and expanded to include more recent incidents in Fort McMurray.

Jimmy Allen Fransen, 51, of Fort McMurray, was arrested on March 21 and charged with sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, sexual interference with a child under the age of 16, sexual exploitation, making and possession of child pornography.

Jimmy Allen Fransen, 51, of Fort McMurray, Sherina Maria Handsor, 43, of Sandy Beach, and Brenda Disher (also known as Brenda Fransen), of Fort McMurray, are facing child abuse charges. Supplied/RCMP

The RCMP said that after Fransen was arrested, a second victim came forward in Fort McMurray with “unrelated allegations of child sexual abuse” in the northern Alberta city between 2017 and 2023.

RCMP investigated and laid additional charges against Fransen and Brenda Disher (also known as Brenda Fransen), of Fort McMurray, on April 6.They are both charged with making, distribution and possession of child pornography, sexual assault, sexual interference involving a child, sexual exploitation, and trafficking a person under the age of 18.

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They were both released on bail with conditions restricting contact with children. They are set to appear in court on April 29 in Fort McMurray, and Fransen is also scheduled to appear in court on May 7 in Edson.

If you have any information about these crimes or those responsible please call the RCMP Serious Crimes Branch at 780-509-3290.

If you wish to remain anonymous you can contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 1‐800‐222-8477 (TIPS) or online.

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