CALGARY – Calgary police say a girl matching the description of a missing five-year-old was spotted about nine hours before her mother was found dead and they have reason to hope the child is being cared for, wherever she is.
Insp. Don Coleman said witnesses saw a girl who looked like Taliyah Leigh Marsman on Monday around 11:30 a.m. with a stocky, black male.
They were seen in the northwest Calgary neighbourhood where Taliyah lived with her mother, Sara Baillie, who was found dead that evening in their basement suite.
Police say the sighting was near where Baillie’s vehicle was found. The girl who witnesses saw was wearing red or pink boots with white polka dots and was carrying a reddish-coloured suitcase.
“If the girl seen in Panorama with the boots and the suitcase is, in fact, Taliyah, the suitcase is a promising indication that whoever she’s with has intentions of caring for her to some degree,” Insp. Don Coleman said Wednesday.
“We’re hopeful that whoever does have her just maybe didn’t realize the situation or is trying to figure out how to resolve it.
“Whoever that is needs to be aware that any time children are harmed, that changes the game and takes things to a whole new level for everybody — police, community. Even other people in jail don’t take kindly to that sort of thing.”
The Amber Alert for Taliyah was still in effect Wednesday. Police have ruled Baillie’s death a homicide.
Police also said footage from a closed-circuit camera shows Baillie and her daughter at a Dairy Queen around suppertime Sunday. Baillie appears to be speaking with a man and a boy. Police say they want to identify the people in the footage and have posted still photos of the exchange on the City of Calgary’s website.
Taliyah’s father begged anyone who might know where his “baby” is to come forward.
“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,” Colin Marsman said in a statement released to the media through his friend, Gabriel Goree.
Marsman offered his condolences to Baillie’s family.
Court documents show he was charged last year with unlawful confinement and intimidation by threats against Baillie. The charges were later withdrawn and a peace bond was issued.
“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,” Marsman said.
Coleman said Marsman is co-operating with their investigation.
Goree described Marsman as a “great dad” who also has a son and works in construction.
Marsman’s girlfriend, Jessica Mardinger, added on Facebook: “Colin is a great father. He is in so much pain right now. We need Taliyah back.”
Wracked with sobs and struggling to walk, Tanya Kruger, who is Taliyah’s godmother, stopped by their northwest Calgary home on Wednesday.
Kruger knelt on the rain-soaked lawn, piled with flower bouquets, stuffed animals and cards.
She said she met Baillie around 10 years ago working at Boston Pizza and the two became close.
“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 Kruger, whom Taliyah called “auntie.”
Kruger said she visited with Baillie and Taliyah last weekend.
“We played together, coloured together, and that’s the last time I spoke with them.”
She said she thinks whoever took Taliyah knew the little girl.
“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.”
A handwritten note left on the makeshift memorial, signed by Keisha Meas and encased in a plastic baggie to protect it from the rain, called Baillie a “beautiful, caring and strong” woman and thanked her for “giving us a home when no one else would.”
“We are trying our best to search for Taliyah and we know you are looking over us … We will get you justice no matter how long it’ll take.”
Baillie’s aunt and uncle tearfully pleaded on Tuesday to whomever took Taliyah to drop her off anywhere at all, no questions asked.
Taliyah is described as a mixed-race child with a slim build, brown curly hair and blue eyes.