The family of a man killed in a hit and run near Sherwood Park held a First Nations ceremony near the site where his body was found and made a plea for the person responsible to turn themselves in.
Phoenix Taypayosatum, 28, was found near Highway 21 and Township Road 520 at around 3:45 a.m. on Wednesday. The incident is believed to be a hit and run. Anyone with information is asked to contact police.
Taypayosatum’s sister Autumn, 24, said she last spoke to her brother, who only moved to Alberta from Winnipeg last month, the night before his body was found.
“He was at the Hope Mission shelter. That’s where he called me from,” she said, adding he was hitchhiking from Edmonton to Camrose, where she lives.
Sgt. Jack Poitras said police are still trying to piece together Taypayosatum’s final hours. It is not known how long the 28-year-old was at the site before he was discovered by a passerby and it is also not known when the hit and run occurred.
Police said Taypayosatum was walking along Highway 21 when he was struck by a northbound vehicle. Poitras said police are looking to speak with anyone who may have given Taypayosatum a ride that night or can help them put together a timeline from 9 p.m. on Tuesday to 3:45 a.m. on Wednesday.
Autumn said her brother has two young children – an 11-month-old and a four-year-old.
“I love my brother so much. I have his clothes. We went shoe shopping together and we bought the same shoes. I watch his videos on my phone, just to hear his laugh,” she said, holding back tears.
“[He was] a very funny guy. He made jokes. [He was] a very humble person, very caring and understanding.”
She said she still cannot comprehend what has happened.
“I can’t sleep. Even when I try to sleep, I wake up and it hits me all over again,” she said.
“Who could just leave him there? Just leave him there in the cold on the side of the road? Who could do that?”
Father Ronald Taypayosatum said he was angry when he first heard about the hit and run.
“[It’s] the most terrifying and horrible thing that could happen to me – I never thought I would bury my own kid.”
Aunt Carmel Crowchild said the family was instructed by elders to go to the crash site Saturday. It was the first time the family had laid eyes on the spot where Taypayosatum’s body was discovered.
“We were instructed…to attend at the spot where his soul departed from his body and to pray for him there,” she said.
Carmel and Autumn drew a circle in the snow around a spot, tied a red cloth around a post to signify strength and laid some of Taypayosatum’s favourite snacks on the ground.
“Ask Creator to reveal the truth, as to what occurred here at this spot where you departed from Mother Earth,” Carmel said during the ceremony.
“We accept that Creator has called you home.”
The family is raising money through a GoFundMe campaign to cover the expenses to transport Taypayosatum’s body back to Winnipeg.
“We want to honour Phoenix’s wishes. We want to honour everyone who knows Phoenix and his life was in Winnipeg. We want to bring him home,” Carmel said.
The family said they are thankful for the work that police are doing but they hope to find some closure soon.
“I don’t want my son to be another statistic – a forgotten statistic. I don’t want to be coming back here every year for the next 10 or 20 years and finding out they still haven’t done nothing about it,” Ronald said.
He is pleading for the driver to turn himself or herself in.
“It’s not like we’re going to hate you. We’re a forgiving family,” he said.
“Do the right thing. That’s all I can say – do the right thing.”
Anyone with information about Taypayosatum is asked to contact Strathcona County RCMP at 780-467-7741.