BLAIRMORE, Alta. — RCMP in southern Alberta say they have arrested a suspect in the killing of a man and the abduction of his two-year-old daughter, but they still don’t know where the toddler is.
Supt. Tony Hamori wouldn’t name the 22-year-old man who was arrested in Blairmore on Tuesday because no charges have been laid.
The search was still on for Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, who officers believe was taken from her home in a speeding white van early Monday morning.
Her father, Terry Blanchette, 27, was found dead in the home and police believe his death was a homicide.
“To my knowledge that person has been arrested in association to both the homicide and the disappearance of Hailey,” Hamori said at a news conference.
He said the suspect is a resident of the town, 220 km southwest of Calgary near the boundary between Alberta and British Columbia.
RCMP said they found a van that could be associated with the investigation, but have not called off the search for the suspect vehicle.
“It is too soon for police to know if this is the van that was reportedly seen near the Blanchette home early Monday morning,” Mounties said.
As the search for Hailey continued, a clearer picture of her father emerged.
Blanchette, who worked as a cook in a restaurant and was described as a doting father by friends and his boss, had many criminal convictions between 2010 and 2012.
Court records indicate he was convicted of failing to appear in court in Lethbridge in 2010 and was fined $300. He also pleaded guilty and was fined $750 for failing to stop his vehicle and evading police in late February 2012.
The following month, Blanchette stole beef jerky from a Dollarama store and assaulted a man. He pleaded guilty and was fined $500.
A separate incident that month at a Zellers resulted in a charge of theft under $5,000. He pleaded guilty and was fined $100. In April 2012 he pleaded guilty to assaulting a man at or near Calgary and was fined $500.
There are no court records after 2012. That’s when Blanchette’s Facebook posts switched from talk of court dates to pictures of him with his baby daughter.
“I’m not the bad guy for not wanting my child around drug-addicted pedofiles,” said a post attributed to Blanchette on March 8, 2013.
Family friend Corette Harrington said Hailey’s mother, Cheyenne Dunbar, and Blanchette amicably shared custody of their little girl. She lived with her dad full-time and Dunbar visited every few weeks from Edmonton.
Hamori said Dunbar was working with investigators.
“To my knowledge, she has been co-operative with the investigation,” he said. “Police have been speaking with her and obviously, at this point in time, followup investigation is going to be done on all information we receive.”
Neighbour Angela Mathieson said Blanchette’s father took care of Hailey while Blanchette was at work.
She said it was clear he loved being a father.
“He was taking good care of her. There was always laughing and giggling going on over there.”
Hamori said police found Blanchette’s body shortly before noon on Monday and it was information from neighbours that led investigators to believe Hailey was taken at around 3:30 a.m.
“One of the immediate things we did was a neighbourhood canvass,” Hamori said.
“That takes time to establish that, for example, Hailey just didn’t wander away from the residence and might be in a neighbour’s care or was somewhere lost in the vicinity of the home. So we have to ensure those aspects are covered off to the best of our ability before we issue an Amber Alert.”
Mathieson said she didn’t notice anything unusual early Monday morning.
“I didn’t hear anything and the dogs never responded to anything going on there either.”
Blair Painter, mayor of Crowsnest Pass, said everyone in the area is feeling pain.
“This is devastating for our small community. We’re very tight-knit,” he said.
“This affects everybody. My heart and prayers go out to Hailey and her family for a speedy recovery and that we can resolve this very, very quickly and that she’s returned home safely.”
Heading into the police station Tuesday afternoon, Blanchette’s nephew Gage Blanchette said the family is hopeful.
“We don’t know where she is, but we hope she gets home safe and sound, like, please,” he told radio station CFFR.
“Just please bring her home safe, please. That’s all we ask.”
— With files from Rob Drinkwater and Mary Jo Laforest in Edmonton and radio station CFFR.
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press