Calgary

What we know about Edward Downey, charged in killing of Taliyah Marsman and her mother

The Calgary man charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Sara Baillie and her five-year-old daughter, Taliyah Marsman, has an extensive criminal record, investigators say, including a connection to a Nova Scotia-based prostitution gang.

Downey, 46, charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder after bodies of Sara Baillie and daughter, 5, found

Edward Downey, 46, who also goes by the name Edward Simmonds, has been charged in the deaths of Taliyah Marsman, 5, and her mother, Sara Baillie, in Calgary. He's shown here being escorted by police to appear before the justice of the peace on Thursday night. (CBC)

The Calgary man charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Sara Baillie and her five-year-old daughter, Taliyah Marsman, has an extensive criminal record, investigators say.

Edward Downey, 46, who also goes by the name Edward Simmonds, was charged after Taliyah's body was found on a rural property east of Chestermere late Thursday, ending a three-day Amber Alert. Earlier in the week, her mother was found slain in a home's basement suite that she shared with the child.

Police say the accused is known to both victims. Police originally said Downey also knew Taliyah's father, Colin Marsman — Baillie's estranged common-law partner — but said in June 2017 they no longer had confidence in that information.

"I don't know the level of trust there would have been there, but he is definitely known to Sara and Taliyah," said Insp. Don Coleman.

Downey is the only suspect at this point, and police said he has offered limited co-operation. Police say they have yet to find a motive for the killings.

Downey was ordered to have no contact with the girl's father. Both men have ties to Halifax. He will remain in custody until his next court appearance on Wednesday.

North Preston's Finest gang connections

CBC News has confirmed Downey is connected to the North Preston's Finest (NPF) gang. It also goes by the name Willis Crew. NPF members recruit girls in the Maritimes, forcing them into prostitution in cities across Canada, according to Ontario police.

Calgary police were chasing these connections early in the investigation.

Colin Marsman, 36, is Taliyah's father and the estranged common-law partner of homicide victim Sara Baillie, the girl's mother. (Facebook)

Downey previously convicted on drug, weapons and pimping offences

CBC News has learned Downey had a lengthy criminal record, dating back at least 25 years, that includes convictions for cocaine trafficking, weapons offences and pimping-related charges.

Court records show Edward Delten Downey was convicted in 2008 of trafficking cocaine and possession of an unauthorized firearm. He was sentenced to four years. He was also sentenced to 18 months in jail for pimping in 1998.

Downey and a woman, who owned a residence together in Coventry Hills, defaulted on their mortgage, and in 2011 were sued by the bank for $126,000 — the amount still owing on the house.

Police are currently searching Downey's home in Calgary's northeast community of Skyview Ranch.

Calgary police searched the home of Downey on Friday morning in the northeast community of Skyview Ranch. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

Mother believed to be target

Police say they currently believe Baillie, 34, was the target, but her cause of death is not being released.

She has been described as a hard-working single mom.

"Sara was a beautiful young woman who was single-handedly pretty much raising her daughter, and we love her and we miss her," Scott Hamilton said of his niece.

"We have lost a niece, a sister, a daughter and a mother ... God rest her soul," he said.

Baillie's aunt, Marilynne Hamilton, said the mother-daughter relationship was unique.

"Taliyah worships Sara," Marilynne said through tears on Tuesday.

The uncle of Colin Marsman says the family is heartbroken.

"The last couple of days have been very trying," said Barry Marsman.

"These heinous events have caused us unimaginable pain.... Our lives will never be the same, and it's really hard to put in words the grief and shock that we feel."

Sara Baillie, left, was described as a 'beautiful young woman who was single-handedly pretty much raising her daughter' by her uncle, Scott Hamilton. He's shown on the right with Baillie's aunt Marilynne Hamilton and Taliyah. (Instagram)

'Our hearts are broken at the tragic end'

Many people across the country have also expressed shock and sadness.

"On behalf of all Canadians, I want to express our condolences to the families and the people of Calgary for the devastating loss of Taliyah and her mom, Sara," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he appeared at the Calgary Stampede on Friday morning.

"I know there were a lot of hearts broken when the news came out, and there were so many volunteers and police services involved in trying to help a terrible situation that we all need to take a moment to send our love and hearts out to Taliyah and Sara's family."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also tweeted his thoughts.

Premier Rachel Notley expressed in a statement her deepest gratitude to members of the Calgary police, to those who heeded the Amber Alert and spread the word through social media, and others who joined in the search for Taliyah.

"Our hearts are broken at the tragic end of the search for little Taliyah. I know everyone prayed that she be found and returned to her family, to grow up as happy as she appeared in the photographs provided through the media."

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi simply said: "Our hearts are all broken."

Justin Trudeau, in Calgary for the Stampede, said in a message to the families of the victims that he hopes they can find some 'peace in your sadness.' (CBC)

Makeshift memorial grows

Calgarians continue to stop at the home where Taliyah lived in the northwest community of Panorama Hills to pay their respects.

Despite pouring rain at times on Friday, flowers, candles and stuffed animals continue to be placed in front of the house.

Irena Lucardie and her 12-year-old daughter, Kiahna, stopped to bring flowers and say a prayer.

"It's just so unbelievable. Not only because it's our community, but it's just an innocent child. I just can't imagine what would go through the mind of somebody to do that," said Irena Lucardie.

Kiahna, who attended the same dance studio as Taliyah, said: "She was always so happy and joyful."

Nicole May worked at a restaurant with Baillie before Taliyah was born.

"It's really just disgusting," she said with tears in her eyes. "I didn't know how someone could do that to a family."

Mourners gather in front of the growing makeshift memorial near the home Baillie shared with daughter Taliyah. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

Timeline of events

  • Taliyah was last seen with her mother at a Dairy Queen in Calgary's northwest on Sunday night.
  • A young girl matching Taliyah's description was seen by witnesses with a "stocky, black" man in a grey sedan around 11:30 a.m. MT Monday. She was carrying a suitcase.
  • Police were called when Baillie didn't show up for work on Monday. They discovered her body in the Panorama Hills basement suite where she was living with her daughter.
  • An Amber Alert was issued on Tuesday at 1:21 a.m. MT.
  • Baillie's family makes a plea for Taliyah's safe return.
Family members of five-year-old Taliyah Leigh and her slain mother speak to the media 8:57


Calgary police searched for Taliyah Marsman in a rural area east of Calgary where they later discovered her body. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)
  • A suspect is taken into custody at a strip mall on Wednesday.
  • Evidence that the driver of the grey sedan was in a rural area east of Calgary leads to a search of the area on Thursday, where Taliyah's body is found. The search is continuing as police search for more evidence.
  • Downey appears before a judge late Thursday.
  • An autopsy for Taliyah is expected to take place Friday.
  • The date of the memorial services have not yet been released.
(Canadian Press)

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story, citing sources, said Colin Marsman shared a gang connection with Edward Downey. However, CBC News is no longer confident in the information provided by those sources.
    Jun 21, 2017 1:52 PM MT

With files from CBC's Meghan Grant, Jennifer Lee, Erin Collins, David Bell and The Canadian Press

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