A 19-year-old woman has been charged with attempted murder and abduction after the brutal beating of a toddler in Winnipeg early Tuesday.
The 14-month-old girl, named Vanessa, was attacked around 4:30 a.m. CT near a Manitoba Housing complex and playground on Chudley Street.
The woman charged, Nikita Solange Eaglestick, and the girl are not related, Winnipeg police said.
Police allege Vanessa was taken from a home in the 100 block of Gilbert Avenue and assaulted. The attacker ran off when a man came to see what was happening.
Tyler Bilsborrow is now being hailed as a hero by people in the neighbourhood.
He was having a cigarette outside his home on Chudley Street when he heard screams and went to look. He saw a woman slamming something against the sidewalk.
Bilsborrow wrapped the child in his sweater and held her until emergency crews arrived. He said emergency crews have told him Vanessa would surely have died if he hadn't intervened.
The condition of the girl, who was initially rushed to hospital in serious condition, has improved. She is now listed as stable, police said.
Const. Jason Michalyshen said Eaglestick was drinking at a party at the residence of Vanessa's parents prior to the assault, but police have not yet identified any potential motive for the attack against the girl.
"That is something that we're all kind of scratching our heads right now to try and figure out," Michalyshen said. "Our investigators spent the majority of the day interviewing witnesses — individuals that may possess valuable information with regards to the investigation."
The assault has left veteran police investigators shaken, Michalyshen added.
"There are officers that are either somewhat involved or directly involved, and it's impacting them," he said.
Neighbour Elaine Linklater was awakened by the party noise at the home.
"They're noisy, arguing, shouting," she said. "I usually just close the window because I always hear that."
Police said Vanessa and her mother were at the home during the party and Manitoba's Child and Family Services is involved in the investigation.
Vanessa's mother phoned Bilsborrow on Wednesday to thank him, but he was catching up on sleep he missed following the disturbing incident, said Bilsborrow's mom, Pearl.
"She was quite upset, and she was crying really hard still. I really felt for her, I was crying with her," Pearl said, adding that Vanessa's mom said she hasn't been able to see the baby yet, due to the ongoing investigation.
"She's asked us to come to the hospital to come see her when she has access to the child, so my son and her child can reconnect, and my son will be able to see that her daughter's OK," Pearl said.
Eaglestick remains in custody.