BLAIRMORE, Alta. — RCMP in southern Alberta say they have arrested a suspect in the killing of a father 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 Crowsnest Pass home in a speeding white van early Monday morning. Her 27-year-old father, Terry Blanchette, was found dead in the home and police believe his death was a homicide.
“To my knowledge that person has been arrested in association (with) 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 kilometres southwest of Calgary near the boundary between Alberta and British Columbia.
RCMP say they have 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 is 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.
“His dad came and took care of her while he was at work. He was taking good care of her. There was always laughing and giggling going on over there.”
Mathieson said she returned home from a shift at around 3 a.m. — the time police believe Hailey was taken — and noticed nothing unusual.
“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 the pain of this tragic case.
“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.”
— With files from Rob Drinkwater and Mary Jo Laforest in Edmonton.
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press