Two sisters found dead in a burned-out car in Calgary were "beautiful souls" who leave behind 16 children between them.
The man who was killed with them was described by a friend as "a small town kid with a big heart."
Police believe the three were "at the wrong place at the wrong time," caught in an attack meant for someone else.
The bodies of Glynnis Fox, 36, Tiffany Ear, 39, and Cody Pfeiffer, 25, were found at a construction site in the northwest Calgary community of Sage HIll on Monday.
Police believe the owner of the burned-out Chevrolet Cruze was the target of the killings. The body of 26-year-old Hanock Afowerk was found two days later, dumped on the western outskirts of Calgary near the traffic circle at Highway 8 and Highway 22.
The "brutality and the ruthlessness of the murders" has surprised even seasoned investigators, police said.
"Everyone is at a loss for words, still in shock. We can't believe they're gone," Carla Fox, a cousin of the two women killed, told CBC News on Friday.
'Just beautiful' mothers
The women were the eldest of 12 siblings born and raised in Morley, an Indigenous community west of Calgary. Fox leaves behind seven children, and Ear had nine children and one grandchild, their cousin said.
"They were such beautiful souls. They were always there for friends and family. Even if you didn't ask, they were right there," Carla Fox said. "They loved their children with all their hearts."
The sisters had a hard youth, Fox said, and still struggled at times in adulthood.
"We still loved them. We were still here for them," she said.
Family members lit a bonfire for the two women on Friday, which will be tended to and remain burning until a funeral service is held, tentatively planned for Monday, said brother Lorenzo Ear.
"We're coping as much as we can, right now we're mainly focused on being a family unit, to continue healing and working together for the services," he said.
They remained close to family, especially each other and their late grandmother, who raised them. Fox said she's especially grateful to them for their support when she lost her own son in recent years.
"They were humble and they were just loving," another cousin, Benji Hunter, told the Calgary Eyeopener. "You'd go visit them and they'd make you feel at home."
Police said they believe a number of people were involved in the slayings and are asking for the public's help as they search for suspects.
Carla Fox said she struggles to imagine who would commit such crimes.
"That's pretty cruel and cowardly, I'd say. They're innocent people," she said.
Pfeiffer 'a good soul'
Pfeiffer is being remembered as a "good soul."
A longtime friend said he stayed with her family to help with her daughter while her boyfriend was going to school.
Megan Snell, 26, first met Pfeiffer in the fourth grade in the southern Alberta village of Barons, and the two stayed close friends for years.
"He's a good soul, that kid. Biggest heart," Snell said.
She said Pfeiffer comes from a quiet, working family — "he was their life" — who were all looking forward to his younger brother's upcoming wedding.
She said she lost touch with Pfeiffer after he started partying heavily at the same time she was trying to get away from that lifestyle.
"In the end, he … just got wrapped up in the wrong crap," she said.
CBC's attempts to reach Pfeiffer's family have not been successful.
Police seek tips
Calgary police have released little information about Afowerk, other than he was the registered owner of the burned vehicle and had a criminal record.
As the investigation continues, Acting Insp. Paul Wozley said police can't offer many details as to what they believe happened.
"You have to bear with us as we continue to connect the dots," he said.
Calgary police are asking anyone with information that may help the investigation to call 403-266-1234 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.
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