Friends, family say goodbye to 4-year-old girl found dead at Ontario conservation area
Keira Kagan had been hiking with her father at Rattlesnake Point in Milton, Ont.
A grieving mother read a bedtime story to her four-year-old daughter one final time on Thursday, as hundreds of mourners gathered for the funeral of the girl whose body was found at the bottom of a cliff after a weekend hike.
Police found the bodies of Keira Kagan and her father, Robin Brown, Sunday evening in the Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area in Milton, Ont., under circumstances some of the girl's family members describe as suspicious.
At the funeral, Jennifer Kagan read two of Keira's favourite books: No Matter What and The Runaway Bunny.
"Keira, a part of me does not want to go on," Kagan said through tears, standing near her daughter's small, white casket.
"I want to go to the edge of that cliff with you. I want to crawl into the coffin with you. I want to lie down with you the way we lie down each and every night."
Police say the girl and Brown went missing on Sunday afternoon after they went hiking in Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area.
Halton Regional Police searched for the two in the middle of a severe winter storm.
Both were discovered at the base of a rocky cliff with "significant trauma" that would be "consistent with a fall."
Kagan and Brown had split up when Kiera was a baby and the pair had been engaged in a bitter custody dispute on and off since. Their last court filing -- one of almost 40 over the years — was at the end of January.
Kagan and her husband, Philip Viater, believe the deaths were a murder-suicide that took place as a court was reviewing Brown's access,
Halton regional police have said they are not investigating the deaths as homicides "at this point."
At the funeral, the family focused on Keira's life.
A Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel, Rabbi Philip Scheim, said that "although there are many questions, today is a day to show support."
He described Keira as an "old soul" who had compassion beyond her years.
Viater described her as a happy child, whose favourite colour evolved from pink to the more inclusive "rainbow."
She loved her eight-month-old brother Joseph the most, then her mother, while Viater placed himself a distant third.
Keira also had a sharp wit, her stepfather said.
"I joked with her one time if she doesn't listen, we're going to return her to the baby store," Viater said. "She immediately
retorted she'd return me to the adult store!"
The girl loved poetry, rap and unicorns. She loved music — her favourite songs were Be Prepared by Scar from The Lion King and two songs from Frozen 2.
'We would dance well past her bedtime'
She also loved to dance.
"We would dance well past her bedtime many nights," Viater said. She loved to run and her favourite part of kindergarten was the "free play time."
Kagan said everything reminds her of her daughter: her empty car seat, her pink coat in the closet and the cup of water by her bedside.
She now wears one half of a heart on her necklace. Keira, she said, is wearing the other half.
"When Joseph touches my necklace it gives me comfort, for I imagine playing with you and pulling your hair and you kissing him on the mouth and laughing, two beautiful innocent children just being happy."
With files from Philip Lee-Shanok