Calgary police say that a missing five-year-old girl was last seen with an unidentified man on Monday about nine hours before her mother was found dead in her basement apartment, and there’s hope that whoever abducted the child does not plan to harm her. Witnesses told police that they saw a child matching Taliyah Leigh Marsman’s description walking with “a stocky, black male” around 11:30 a.m. on Monday. The child was seen carrying a reddish-coloured suitcase and wearing red or pink boots with white polka dots, police said.
Calgary police major crimes Insp. Don Coleman said that the suitcase could be a sign that whoever took Taliyah intends to care for her.
“We’re hopeful that she’s safe, we’re going to remain hopeful that she’s safe, and that she’s just with somebody that’s trying to figure out what to do,” Coleman said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Police found Taliyah’s mother, Sara Baillie, 34, dead in her basement apartment around 8:30 p.m. Monday night after she didn’t show up to work at an airport restaurant and her family contacted police. Police issued a Canada-wide Amber Alert for Taliyah at approximately 1:40 a.m. on Tuesday, and the young girl remained missing on Wednesday.
Coleman said the stocky black male and the girl resembling Taliyah were seen in the same area where Baillie’s car was later found.
“We believe that is a good possibility that that’s Taliyah and an unknown male, so we’re chasing down leads on that … we believe walking away from the victim’s vehicle, potentially,” he said.
Police are considering the possibility that Taliyah could be outside the Calgary area or the province, but Coleman said investigators have “no information that that’s actually the case.”
The new information has allowed police to narrow down the focus of their investigation, but officials have yet to name a suspect in Taliyah’s disappearance or Baillie’s death.
On Wednesday, investigators determined that Baillie’s death was a homicide. Police said they will not release her cause of death.
Calgary police also released security camera footage from Sunday of the mother and daughter at a Calgary-area Dairy Queen. The footage appears to show Baillie speaking with an unidentified family inside the restaurant, and police have released images of the encounter in hopes of reaching the family.
Missing girl’s father speaks out
Taliyah’s father released a statement on Wednesday begging whoever abducted his daughter to bring her back home.
Colin Marsman thanked Calgary police for searching for his daughter and offered condolences to Baillie’s family.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone out there, including the media, and especially the law enforcement for their continued search for Taliyah. I also want to send my deepest condolences to Sara’s family during this time,” he said in a statement.
“I want to make a plea to anyone out there who knows anything about where about where my baby is. Please… It’s never too late to do the right thing! If you even think you might have seen something that could be a clue, let your local law enforcement know immediately.
“With all my heart, I love her sooo much; she is my light! Please allow her to come home to her family.
“Once again, I truly appreciate all the people who have shown support to our family and are praying for the safe return of Taliyah at this time. Those who know me best, know the person and kind of father I am and know more than anything I just want my baby girl back.
“Once again I plead for anyone knowing anything about where Taliyah is to please come forward with anything that will help get her home and back to her family.”
Marsman is estranged from Baillie and was previously charged with unlawful confinement and intimidation by threats on Feb. 1, 2015. According to court documents, Baillie feared that Marsman would cause her physical harm.
But those charges were withdrawn March 2. A peace bond issued on that same day has expired.
Police say they are speaking with a number of people of interest, including Marsman, and that the child’s father is cooperating with police. Police were clear that Marsman has not been named a suspect.
Asked whether Marsman could be the “stocky, black male” seen on Monday, Coleman said that police are “still trying to determine that.”
Marsman’s girlfriend, Jessica Mardinger, spoke out about the girl’s disapperance on Facebook.
“Colin is a great father. He is in so much pain right now. We need Taliyah back,” Mardinger wrote.
Godmother: Family has ‘one suspect in mind’
Police officers remained outside Baillie’s house Wednesday afternoon to hold the scene. A makeshift vigil was placed on the home’s front lawn with stuffed animals, flowers and handwritten cards for the family.
Despite rainy conditions on Wednesday, neighbours came out to express their condolences and show support for the family of the missing girl.
“It feels important as a community member to come here and offer my support to the family and to our community to let them know we’re here to help in whatever way we can,” Karen Mok, a neighbour, told CTV Calgary.
Taliyah’s godmother also visited the vigil and choked back tears as she spoke with a Canadian Press reporter about her missing goddaughter, who called her “auntie.”
“She had met Colin and gotten pregnant with Taliyah and she graciously asked me to be Taliyah’s godmom and, of course, I accepted,” said Tanya Kruger, who met Baillie when the pair worked at Boston Pizza together about 10 years ago.
The last time Kruger saw the little girl was last weekend, she said.
“We played together, coloured together, and that’s the last time I spoke with them.”
Kruger echoed comments made by police that whoever took Taliyah likely knew her personally.
“We all, and her family all, have one suspect in mind, not that I want to mention it. But that’s for the police to do their work and find out and I know that justice will be served.
“If anybody knows anything about her, please, she wants to come home. She needs to come home. She has a lot of people that love her and this little precious angel does not deserve this. Just please, bring her home. Keep your eyes out and pray.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Calgary police at 403-266-1236 or the Amber Alert hotline at 403-532-6237.