Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Tuesday they have found human remains in the case of a missing two-year-old girl.
Victims services officials made the announcement during a candlelight vigil in Blairmore, in southwestern Alberta, for Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette.
Relatives, friends and strangers who had showed up to lend support in the search for the girl were immediately overcome with grief, breaking down in tears as officials announced that the Amber Alert had been canceled. The alert had been extended to British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Montana.
“This is the news that nobody wanted to hear,” Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter told The Toronto Star. “This is going to devastate our community and it's going to take us a long time to heal from this.”
Hailey was abducted Monday morning from the town of Blairmore by someone driving a speeding white van. Her father, Terry Blanchette, 27, was found dead in their home and in what police believe to be a homicide.
Police say they have a 22-year-old suspect, but the name of the man will not be released until the charges had been filed, said Supt. Tony Hamori said.
Terry Blanchette was described by friends and family as a devoted single father who shared custody of Hailey with his former girlfriend, Cheyenne Dunbar, who lives in Edmonton. Hamori said Dunbar is co-operating with the investigation.
Blanchette was a former cook and had many criminal convictions between 2010 and 2012 for issues such as failing to appear in court, failing to stop his vehicle, evading police, minor theft and assault. However, after Hailey was born, there were no more court appearances. Blanchette’s Facebook posts switched from court dates to baby talk, according to The Associated Press.
"He was taking good care of her. There was always laughing and giggling going on over there," said a neighbor Angela Mathieson.
The vigil for the girl started out with a group wearing yellow arm bands talking about different locations where Hailey could be, according to The Star. A pink sign with “please bring our baby Hailey home safe” was hung up on a park’s gate with a stuffed bear attached to it.
CBC News reports the case has shocked the entire community. Royal Canadian Mounted Police said an investigation into the death of a 69-year-old man last week is not connected to the death of the toddler.
However, the deaths have many residents on edge, according to CBC.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.