Alberta community devastated by news of child’s death
It was the worst possible scenario that no one wanted to hear. RCMP announced on Tuesday night that they had found the body of two-year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette just outside Blairmore.
“It is my very sad duty tonight to inform you that we have found the body of two-year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette in a rural location near Blairmore, Alberta,” said RCMP Superintendent Tony Hamori during a news conference on Monday. “The location of the discovery has been secured and investigators are now working to process the scene.”
Many residents learned the tragic news while attending a candlelight vigil to pray for Hailey’s safe return.
After about an hour into the event, police arrived with Hailey’s biological mother and grandmother and delivered the news.
Police issued an Amber Alert for Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette on Monday afternoon, after a relative visited the toddler’s Blairmore home and found her biological father, Terry Blanchette, dead and Hailey missing.
An investigation discovered that the girl had been forcibly taken from her home by an unknown assailant and the suspect vehicle, a white van, was last seen speeding from the community in a westerly direction.
On Tuesday, police say that they arrested a 22-year-old man in connection with the deaths and abduction. They are not releasing his name until formal charges are laid.
"The male suspect who was arrested in Blairmore earlier today remains in police custody for questioning in relation to the investigation into the homicide of Hailey's father, Terry Blanchette, and her disappearance," said Hamori. "Police will provide the identity of the suspect after charges are laid in these matters."
The community, meanwhile, will take a long time to recover from the incident.
“This is obviously not the outcome our community was hoping for. This is going to devastate our community and it's going to take a long time to heal from this,” said Crowsnest Pass mayor Blair Painter. “I don't know what else to say, this is just heartbreaking, devastating news to hear right now.”
Residents who attended the vigil say they were completely shocked by the news. “At that moment, I just didn’t know what to think. I just really don’t know what to think. I was just hoping it was just not true,” said Patricia Green.”
Frank Green says he’s glad that police were able to make an arrest, but sad by the situation. “It’s good to see the community close, but it’s sad that it has to be something like this that does it.”
Roxanne Michalski says she was flooded by emotions when she heard the news. “Just disbelief, horror, shock, numb, dumbfounded, disgusted -- I don't know, I'm probably repeating myself. You never think it’s going to happen so close to you or people you know. All we wanted was Hailey home safe. She’s a baby and I don’t know what to say.”
Terry-Lynn Dunbar, the grandmother of Hailey, released a statement on her Facebook page on Tuesday night:
On behalf of my daughter and I, we'd like to thank everyone for your outpouring of love and support. The love we feel from you, my friends, family and the entire community is what is keeping us going right now. We are still in shock and reeling from the pain we've all endured as I am sure you are all as well. The Dunbar and Blanchette families will be forever broken. Terry Blanchette and Hailey meant the world to my little family. Regardless of our differences we need to stand together as one to get through this. I pray for comfort for our families. As a mother and (formerly) grandmother my pain is unimaginable at the loss of my only grandchild in such a horrific manner. But my heart can't stop hurting for Terry's mother Faith and his father Bill, and of course my own daughter Cheyenne. To lose a child, the pain and hurt must be inconceivable. I'm sure you have read all sorts of awful things on social media about our families. As well as news broadcasts and radio programs, but just know this, Terry and Cheyenne loved their little girl more than anything in the world. They were/are amazing people who put above all else, so much effort into changing their lives to give Hailey Lynn the life she deserved. I'm asking you all right now to see only the good and please don't believe everything you read. Our families need time to heal and cope with our losses and I pray in time our hurt will begin to ease. Please continue to pray for my little Hailey Bumm... please don't forget her. We never will. Rest in eternal peace Terry and Hailey. With much love, Terry-Lynn Dunbar.
On Wednesday morning, police said that the community has shown a considerable amount of resiliency and strength in the face of the tragedy. "These events have been traumatic for the citizens of Crowsnest Pass. Three violent murders within a week would rock any community and are perhaps even more challenging in a small town setting where everybody knows their neighbours," said Hamori on Wednesday.
"However, the residents of Crowsnest Pass have also demonstrated an amazing resiliency in the face of these crimes. They have pulled together and made a difficult job for us that much easier. They also stand strong in support of each other and the victims' families."
Hamori says that police are working with people in the community to help restore the sense of safety and security they enjoyed before the recent events.
Anyone with information that might assist police in these investigations is asked to call Crowsnest Pass RCMP at 403-562-2866. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers with information at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).