Suspect may have burned evidence in case of missing mom, child: Calgary police
CALGARY -- Police say a suspect in the possible homicides of a missing woman and her toddler daughter may have tried to burn evidence and are urging the public to report any unusual fires in a rugged area outside Calgary.
"Through the investigation we have learned that items may have been purchased that would destroy evidence," Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta said Monday.
He declined to elaborate on what those items were.
Aliyah Sanderson, 22-months old, and her mother Jasmine Lovett, 25, have not been seen since April 16 and were reported missing a week later after they failed to show up for a family dinner.
The Lovett family issued a statement through police late Monday to thank everyone who is helping with the search and to ask for privacy.
"Our hearts are shattered and we continue to seek answers to the questions many of you are asking," said the statement.
"If anyone has any information about this case, we beg of you to please contact police."
Police are seeking information from anyone who may have seen signs of a suspicious fire between April 16 and April 20 around the hamlets of Bragg Creek and Priddis or in the nearby Kananaskis wilderness area popular with hikers and mountain bikers.
In particular, police are seeking tips about fires outside designated fire pits.
The search in the Rocky Mountain foothills west and southwest of Calgary remains on hold because of heavy snowfall on the weekend.
Members of the public are being warned not to search on their own because it could result in accidental destruction of evidence under the snow.
Even without the snow, it's a tough place to search because of mountainous terrain, dense forest and wildlife, Schiavetta said.
"Right now our primary goal is to get back into the Kananaskis area and we need Mother Nature to co-operate with us for that."
He added police are also still looking for information regarding a grey Mercedes-Benz SUV seen in the area around the time the woman and child disappeared.
"We have received dozens and dozens of tips that are currently being actioned by investigators," said Schiavetta.
"Sometimes the smallest piece of information is the piece that leads us forward and progresses the investigation."
A forensic search of the home in southeast Calgary where Lovett and her daughter lived has been completed and the owner was able to return Monday.
A man who was taken into custody was released Friday without charges, but Schiavetta said he remains the primary suspect. Police have not released his name.
A man who identified himself as Robert Leeming told CTV on Friday that he is that person and that he is innocent. He confirmed that he owns the SUV that has been seized by police.
Leeming, 34, said he is also the owner of the townhouse where Lovett and her daughter live.
Schiavetta said police still have the SUV.
He said because no charges have been laid, there are not conditions stopping the suspect from leaving the country. Leeming said he is a British citizen but has permanent resident status in Canada.
Schiavetta added there is no public danger, as it's believed the suspected homicides were targeted.
He said almost every member of the police force's homicide unit is working the case, along with officers from other divisions, including the domestic conflict unit. Search-and-rescue groups, provincial fish and wildlife officials and RCMP officers have also been helping