BLAIRMORE, Alta. – As the search continued Tuesday for a two-year-old Alberta girl, a clearer picture emerged of her father who was found dead of a suspected homicide in a southwestern Alberta home.
RCMP issued an Amber Alert on Monday across Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Montana for little Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette before confirming they had found the body of Terry Blanchette in Blairmore.
Investigators believe the girl was taken from the home Monday at around 3:30 a.m. by a suspect or suspects in a newer model white van with a large rear antenna and a flag flying from it.
Witnesses reported seeing the van fleeing the scene at a high rate of speed heading west.
Blanchette, who worked as a cook in a restaurant and was described as a doting father by friends and his boss, had many criminal convictions between 2010 and 2012.
Court records indicate Blanchette’s earliest conviction was for failing to appear in court in Lethbridge in 2010, for which he was fined $300. He also pleaded guilty and was fined $750 for failing to stop his vehicle and evading police in late February 2012.
The following month, Blanchette stole beef jerky from a Dollarama and assaulted a man. He pleaded guilty and was fined $500. A separate incident that month at a Zellers resulted in a charge of theft under $5,000. He pleaded guilty and was fined $100.
In April 2012 he pleaded guilty to assaulting a man at or near Calgary. He was fined $500.
The court records of criminal activity stop in 2012.
After the various appearances for those offences wrapped up, Blanchette’s Facebook posts switched from talking about his court dates to pictures of him together with his baby daughter.
“I’m not the bad guy for not wanting my child around drug addicted pedofiles,” said a post attributed to Blanchette on March 8, 2013.
RCMP have scheduled a news briefing Tuesday afternoon to update the investigation and search for Hailey.
Supt. Tony Hamori, RCMP assistant district commander for southern Alberta, called the situation very troubling in a media update Monday evening.
Hamori said police do not have a licence plate, make or model for the van, nor do they know what kind of antenna flag was on the van.
“This type of incident, combined with the scene at the residence that we found, is concerning to the highest degree both to the RCMP and to the communities in the Crowsnest Pass,” he said.
Extra police were being brought into the area, including tactical officers to secure the scene and the air unit to help with the search.
Hamori did say there is no safety risk to the public, but added if the van is spotted, people should call police and not engage with anyone in the vehicle.
Family friend Corette Harrington said Hailey’s mother, Cheyenne Dunbar, rushed from her home in Edmonton to be with relatives in the Crowsnest Pass.
She explained that Blanchette and Dunbar, who was his former girlfriend, amicably shared custody of their little girl.
“She lived with her dad full-time, and every few weeks would visit her mom in Edmonton,” she explained, adding that the little girl would often stay with Blanchette’s father in Elkford while he was at work.
Harrington called Blanchette an exemplary single father.
“He loved Hailey very much and everything he did, he did for Hailey. He was an incredible dad. He worked hard for her.”