EDMONTON — A two-year-old child was abducted and a single father killed early Monday morning in a small southwestern Alberta mountain town.
UPDATE: Remains of two-year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette found; Amber Alert dropped
RCMP issued an Amber Alert on Monday across Alberta, which later expanded to British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Montana for Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette. Hours later, RCMP confirmed they’d found the body of her 27-year-old father, Terry Blanchette, in the family home in Blairmore, Alta. His death is being treated as a homicide.
WATCH: Few details available but suspect Derek Saretzky and Hailey’s mother knew each other
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“Terry was a good person. He was a great father,” said Terry’s sister Amanda Blanchette. “He changed his life. Yes, he had a sketchy past, but he turned his life around for that baby. He became a great father. His life was all about her when she was born.
“We just want the safe return of baby Hailey.”
“Bring her back. Because if you honestly love that little girl and you took away her father, you don’t love her,” Amanda added.
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Blanchette had a minor criminal history, including assault and theft, according to Calgary court records. Most recently, he pleaded guilty to assault and theft under $5,000 in July 2013. He was fined $500 with a $75 victim surcharge. He was also found guilty and fined for a February 2013 theft and assault.
WATCH: Suspect linked to Blanchette’s murder allegedly told police where Hailey’s body was
“I know there’s been lots of different speculations, a lot of stuff is being said about my brother by people that don’t know him,” said his sister. “You know what? Terry was a good person. He became a good father. He was a great father.”
TIMELINE: Abduction of 2-year-old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette
Hailey’s grandfather, Kevin Dunbar, said Monday Hailey’s mother was in a state of shock as the family hoped for her safe return.
“Angry, sad. I don’t know what to feel. I have no idea how to take this – mad at a few people about some things and worried about my granddaughter,” Dunbar said.
READ MORE: Amber Alert: Father of abducted Alberta girl dead, child still missing
Police believe the toddler was taken from the home around 3:30 a.m. by a suspect or suspects in a newer model white van with a large rear antenna and a flag flying from it.
Mounties have not been able to give a more detailed vehicle description. They haven’t revealed what happened inside the family home where Blanchette was killed, but were called the home just after 11:15 a.m. Monday by a family member who had discovered his body.
Blanchette worked as a cook at Pure Country Bar and Grill in Frank, a town two kilometres down Highway 3 in the Crowsnest Pass. Manager Tammy Tracey said Monday was his day off.
“He was a good worker and a good father.
“He did anything for his daughter, he loved her dearly. He was a good dad. He lived for her.”
Tracey said Blanchette had worked at the bar for the last three years, never skipping a day of work.
“He had to support a daughter. He was a good kid. He had responsibilities, right?”
Family friend Corette Harrington confirmed that, calling Blanchette an exemplary single father.
“He loved Hailey very much and everything he did, he did for Hailey. He was an incredible dad. He worked hard for her.”
On Monday Hailey’s mother Cheyenne Dunbar rushed from her home in Edmonton to be with relatives in the Crowsnest Pass. Harrington says Blanchette and Dunbar, his former girlfriend, amicably shared custody of their little girl.
READ MORE: ‘She was my baby’: Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette’s mother Cheyenne breaks down
“She lived with her dad full-time, and every few weeks would visit her mom in Edmonton,” she explained, adding that the little girl would often stay with Blanchette’s father in Elkford while he was at work.
She said Blanchette and her oldest daughter, Rebecca, were good friends.
“She’s just always been a part of our lives since Hailey was born,” Harrington told Global News.
“She’s like a little sister to our kids. She has this incredible little nose-scrunch thing she does when she’s happy. She loves to play and to laugh and every time she would see her dad she would light right up.”
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Harrington said she hopes everyone can stay focused on what’s important — finding Hailey — and is thankful for the support from the community members.
“They always come together in the face of tragedy,” she said. “We’re very thankful to be a part of these areas and know that they always have your back no matter what.”
“I just want her to come home and come over to my house and scrunch Goldfish (crackers) all over my floor. I swear she used to do it just to irritate me. I’d give anything to be sweeping up Goldfish right now.”
“It’s heartbreaking to know that when she comes back, her dad’s not going to be there.”
Blairmore is about 220 kilometres southwest of Calgary in the Crowsnest Pass area near the B.C.-Alberta boundary.
RAW VIDEO: RCMP update Amber Alert and homicide in Alberta (Monday evening)
With files from Mary Jo Laforest, The Canadian Press; Erika Tucker and Emily Mertz, Global News
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