CALGARY — Relatives of a missing five-year-old girl were pleading Tuesday for the safe return of a "vivacious" and "curious" curly-haired child whose mother was found dead in the basement suite where the two lived.
The slain woman's uncle appealed directly to whomever might have Taliyah Leigh Marsman.
"Please return her. Drop her off at an RCMP station, a Calgary Police Service station, a grocery store, gas station — wherever you want," Scott Hamilton said through tears as friends and family of his niece, Sara Baillie, surrounded him.
"Contact the family. We'll come and pick her up. There'll be no questions asked."
Police said family members last saw the girl Sunday morning. They became concerned when Baillie, who had a full-time job at Chili's at the Calgary airport, didn't show up at work. Police were called and officers found the woman's body Monday evening.
Police issued an Amber Alert in the early hours Tuesday for the girl, who recently finished kindergarten.
Hamilton said Baillie was single-handedly raising Taliyah, who was described as much more mature than her five years.
He said the two were "inseparable" and Taliyah "worshipped" her mother.
"Taliyah referred to Sara as Mama and it wasn't necessarily like a mother-daughter relationship. It was almost like watching two sisters at times get along."
She likes playing on her iPad and watching cartoons.
Hamilton's wife, Marilynne, had recently taught Taliyah to ride a bicycle.
"The bicycle sits in our garage waiting for her to come back," he said, his voice breaking.
The mother's Facebook page shows a photo last week of Taliyah at the Calgary Stampede, smiling in a white hat and riding a straw bale pony.
A month earlier, a photo shows her dressed in a red, sequined dance outfit clutching flowers. Other pictures posted over the years show her eating cotton candy in her car seat, dressed as a monkey for Halloween and splashing around in a plastic backyard pool.
"She fills my heart with so much joy," Baillie wrote next to a video post in March of her daughter reading a book.
Police said they weren't ruling anything out in their search for the little girl, described as a mixed-race child with a slim build, brown curly hair and blue eyes.
"We have all the faith in the world that Taliyah will be found safe. Somebody who knows where she is, is going to step up and do the right thing," Insp. Don Coleman said following the family's news conference.
He said police have been flooded with tips, as well as with offers of help from other agencies.
Police have not named any suspects. Coleman said they have been doing interviews, working from Baillie's inner circle outward.
The child's estranged father has been co-operating with police, he said.
Coleman said there is a "limited" history of domestic violence in the family.
Court documents show Baillie was the complainant in a case with a man identified as Colin Evan Marsman.
Justice officials say Marsman, who turns 37 Wednesday, was charged with unlawful confinement and intimidation by threats on Feb. 1, 2015. But the charges were withdrawn a month later on March 2. A peace bond was issued on that same day.
Baillie and her daughter moved into the basement suite of a house in a quiet northwest Calgary neighbourhood on May 1, said landlord Olumuyiwa Dada, who lives upstairs.
He said they were good tenants.
"No stress. No problems."
Dada said family members came by on Monday looking for the woman and he did not see or hear anything in the downstairs apartment.
He said he has never met the five-year-old's father. The last time he saw his tenants was last week when they were coming home with groceries.
Yellow police tape blocked off the stairway down to the suite's entrance at the back of the house.
"I'm really feeling down because I only see things like this on the TV," he said. "I don't really understand what is happening, myself. I'm really in shock."
The mother's car police initially said may have been connected to the disappearance was found not far from the home. It was seized by forensic investigators.
Coleman said he is not convinced a stranger was involved in the child's disappearance.
"That's all part of the witness interviews and interviewing family to try and figure out who may have been coming and going from the residence, any relationships that she may have had. There is a whole host of investigative avenues to cover off in a short period of time," he said.
"Our primary focus is the safe return of Taliyah."
— Follow @LaurenKrugel on Twitter
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
©2016 The Canadian Press