Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, missing Alberta toddler, found dead

The Amber Alert for Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette, 2, was cancelled Tuesday night after her remains were found in a rural area of southwest Alberta.

RCMP not yet publicly identifying a suspect but say charges are pending

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      The Amber Alert for Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette was cancelled Tuesday night after her body was found.

      The missing Alberta toddler was found in a rural area, RCMP Supt. Tony Hamori said at a short press conference after 10 p.m. The two-year-old was taken from her Blairmore home in southwest Alberta just hours before her father, 27-year-old Terry Blanchette, was found dead on Monday morning.

      Police found the girl's remains while conducting a search Tuesday afternoon.

      "This is a sad day for the investigators, the citizens of Blairmore and all the Canadians who hoped Hailey would be found and returned unharmed," Hamori told the media. 

      Terry Blanchette holds his daughter Hailey. The two-year-old was taken from the home where his body was discovered on Monday morning. (Terry Blanchette/Facebook)

      RCMP have arrested a suspect in the investigation, and charges are pending. They did not answer questions on Tuesday night, but said they will provide a further update at 10 a.m. MT on Wednesday.

      Friends and family gathered in Blairmore on Tuesday night for a vigil. Those attending say RCMP victim services broke the news to the gathered crowd.

      "This is the toughest kind for police officers to deal with when you're dealing with a missing child in a circumstance like this," Supt. Tony Hamori told the media earlier Tuesday.

      RCMP found Blanchette's body inside the home where he lived with his father on Monday. He was found just after 11 a.m., and that's when police were alerted that his young daughter was missing.

      Residents of Blairmore, Alta., held a candlelight vigil for Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette Tuesday night after learning that her remains had been found. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

      A newer-model white van with a large antenna on the back was seen speeding away from the home at 3:30 a.m., but police believe they have recovered the vehicle.

      Police said the suspect is a 22-year-old man who lives in Blairmore, but they would not give details on what led to the arrest or where exactly it took place. 

      Hamori did not say if the suspect was known to Hailey and her family.

      Mother co-operating with RCMP

      Amber Alerts usually remain in place for 24 hours, but the one for Hailey that was issued Monday had been renewed Tuesday. It covered Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan and Montana before being cancelled.

      RCMP investigators are at the house where 27-year-old Terry Blanchette was found dead. His young daughter was taken from the home. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

      "This is a terrifying ordeal," said Blair Painter, mayor of the small mountain community of Blairmore in the Crowsnest Pass. "News travels quickly and traumatic news travels very quickly."

      Hailey's mother, Cheyenne Dunbar, has travelled down to Blairmore, and is co-operating with the investigation. CBC reporter Carolyn Dunn said she was at the vigil when RCMP informed the crowd that they had found a child's body.

      She said friends and family surrounded Dunbar to help give her support as she left the park where it was being held.

      Corette Harrington, a family friend of the Blanchettes, said she is in shock.

      "I don't understand why someone did this," said Harrington. 

      Hailey 'happy all the time'

      Harrington has two daughters and says Hailey loved to play with them when she came over to their house.

      Corette Harrington, a family friend of the Blanchettes, said she is in shock. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

      "She's so funny. She's happy all the time — always happy," she said. "She does this adorable nose scrunch that she's done since she's about four or five months old and it's quite comical."

      The case has shocked the community.

      The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass houses residents of Blairmore, Coleman, Hillcrest and Bellevue, as well as the historical site at Frank Slide.

      ​RCMP say a homicide investigation into the death of 69-year-old Hanne Meketech in Coleman last week is not connected, but the deaths have many citizens in the Crowsnest Pass on edge.

      See a Google Street View look at the home at the centre of the Amber Alert investigation.