People in Edson, Alta., are frightened and angry over the daytime slaying of a 14-year-old girl along a popular wooded trail, with some people vowing to take matters into their own hands, and many others keeping their children close to home.
"The whole town is in an uproar," said resident Karen Schellenberger. "I've never seen so many children chaperoned around with their parents these days."
Emily Stauffer was attacked by a man around 4:30 p.m. Saturday as she walked along a pathway in the area of Willshire Estates and Old Tiffin, between 17th and 18th Avenues.
Donna Rail fought back tears as she laid flowers at a makeshift shrine set up along the trail where Stauffer was killed.
"I have a child. My youngest one is the same age," Rail said, her voice trembling. "I think, OK, she's got a lot of freedom, and now, how can I let her go out knowing that this monster is on the loose?"
A police release said two youths "came upon the attack" and ran to a nearby house to call 911.
Terry Lozinski travelled to the scene after he heard the call on the police scanner in his truck.
"The call came in that two youths reported seeing a man strangling a woman and the address was two doors down from my father's, and so I headed up here," Lozinski said Monday. "And my father and I walked through the trail, walked up on the crime scene and we were stopped by police.... we seen a bloody rope when we were escorted out."
RCMP have not confirmed the cause of death, even though it has been determined by an autopsy. In a news release Tuesday, all they would say is that Stauffer's death was a homicide, and further forensic work is underway.
Police have yet to find the man responsible for Stauffer's slaying. On Monday, they released a composite sketch of a man they say is not a suspect, but someone with whom they would like to speak.
Police also made a point of warning people not to take justice into their own hands, particularly against anyone who may resemble the man in the drawing.
But Schellenberger said rumours about the case are fuelling a desire for vigilante justice in this town of 8,000 people.
"There's even text messages going around the young kids saying, 'We hope this text message reaches the guy that did this, because if the police don't get you first and we do, we'll do to you what you did to her.' And it's scary," she said.
Uncertainty causes finger-pointing
People are now pointing fingers at others, particularly transient workers who come to the area to work in the logging or oil and gas industry, said James McKinley, who moved to Edson eight years ago, to escape the crime in Edmonton.
He said he understands why people are making those kinds of accusations.
"You hope it's some stranger from God-knows-where because it would just make you feel better that the people that you live with, the people in your town, aren't capable of this kind of this horrific violence," he said. "And I know that might sound like a silly thing to say, but my kids are in every one of these neighbours' houses at some point in time. They're playing with their kids. So you hope its not a neighbour."
Donna Rail said the attack is having an effect on her 14-year-old daughter.
"She asked if she could sleep with me on Saturday night. She says, 'Mommy, I'm scared.'"
Dozens of officers from six RCMP detachments are working on the case.
The suspect is described as a white male, about 30 years old, with brown hair. He was wearing a blue jacket and blue jeans.