Search for Taliyah Marsman ends in murder charges
Published Friday, July 15, 2016 8:45AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 15, 2016 8:57AM EDT
It was the news that no one wanted, but late Thursday, Calgary police announced they had found a body believed to be that of five-year-old Taliyah Leigh Marsman, and charged a man with her murder.
Edward Delten Downey, 46 -- a man who police say has an “extensive criminal history” -- faces two counts of first-degree murder in Taliyah’s death and that of her mother, Sara Baillie, 34.
Baillie’s body was found in her Calgary residence Monday, and an Amber Alert was immediately issued for her missing daughter.
The little girl’s body was found near Chestermere, Alta., at approximately 7 p.m. Thursday near a road where police had been combing a rural property. Searchers who made the heartbreaking discovery said that no effort had been made to bury the girl’s body.
The entire city of Calgary had held out hope over three days that Taliyah would be found alive. Those hopes had been renewed after reports that a girl matching Taliyah's description had been seen walking with a man near the family's home, carrying a suitcase.
But a clearly sombre Insp. Don Coleman said Thursday it appears Taliyah had already been dead by the time police found her mother’s body and issued the Amber Alert:
"There was nothing we could do before we even got involved,” he said.
"It's disappointing. We were hoping for a different outcome.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is in Calgary for Stampede celebrations, tweeted that his heart was heavy with the news.
“May Taliyah Marsman & Sara Baillie rest in peace. My sincere condolences to the family,” he wrote
An autopsy will be held on the child’s body Friday. Police have not commented on any suspected cause of her death or that of her mother.
Coleman said investigators believe that Baillie was the primary target, but cautioned: “An exact motive for both murders is still under investigation.”
In a statement Calgary Police posted to Facebook late Thursday, they said they believed Downey had been acquaintances with Baillie and Taliyah -- as well as with Taliyah's father, Colin Marsman.
But earlier in the day, Marsman denied knowing the man.
“I do not know this man. I have no idea who this man is,” he told CTV Calgary in a phone interview. “This has been very hard times for all my family.”
Police arrested Downey late Wednesday night in a strip mall in Calgary. Coleman said Thursday he was giving police "zero co-operation," though he later described Downey’s co-operation as “limited.”
From information police obtained after that arrest, they began searching the rural area east of Chestermere early Thursday before discovering the body later that evening.
Police Chief Roger Chaffin said 100 officers worked around the clock while the Amber Alert was in place
"Unfortunately they are completely devastated by the loss, as am I," he said.
Investigators will continue to scour the rural area where the body was found to collect more evidence Friday. They have also been searching a residence in Calgary where it is believed Downey lived.
Downey, who also goes by the last name Simmons, appeared before a judge late Thursday. He is next set to appear in court July 20.
The tragic outcome prompted an expressions of grief on social media.
"This is so heartbreaking," Alberta Premier Rachel Notley wrote on social media. "My condolences to the family of Taliyah and Sara -- may they rest in peace."
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi simply said: "Our hearts are all broken."
Montreal Alouettes player Nik Lewis, who was a friend of Baillie's, said he was struggling to understand the tragedy.
"They say everything happens for a reason, but there is no reason to ever take the life of anyone, especially a child. My heart hurts," the CFL player wrote on social media.
With a report from CTV Calgary Jamie Mauracher