Despite not knowing little Anthony Raine, or his family, hundreds of people congregated for a vigil at the church where his body was left one week ago in north Edmonton.
As people came to the church Tuesday evening, they stopped for a few moments of silence behind Good Shepherd Anglican Church, where a memorial has been growing since the body of the 19-month-old boy was discovered on Friday.
The collection of flowers, toys and stuffed animals, balloons and messages of grief is now more than 10 feet long.
“There’s no words for it,” said Allan Groen, who lives across the street from the church and plans to attend the vigil Tuesday night. “There’s no explanation for it, I don’t think. All you can do is be together and just hold on to each other.
“It’s really horrible and it’s not the only time this kind of thing happens in our world. It makes you think about… what does it mean to be human?”
Many attended the vigil out of respect for Raine’s mother and loved ones.
“It’s a horrible thing that this family has to go through and I believe they should get all the support they can. That’s why I’m here,” explained Dan Cuthbert – who lives just a few blocks from the scene.
Rhonda Spence came to smudge at the scene.
“So his spirit can also leave here now. So that he could be released,” she explained.
“In our way of thinking, in our culture, in our beliefs – even though we weren’t blood-related – spiritually, we’re his grandmothers,” Elder Taz Bouchier said. “So we come, we come to honour his spirit.”
“It’s just tragic. Just senseless, you know? The death of a baby,” said Claire Lizotte, who dropped off a balloon and angel statue at the memorial before going into the vigil.
The vigil was held at the church, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. It was open for all members of the community to attend.
The church is located at 15495 Castle Downs Road.
“One of the primary reasons for having this vigil is a lot of people are hurting, a lot of people are sad,” The Very Reverend Neil Gordon said. “And so we’re having this time at the church to gather, to smudge, to pray, to light a candle.”
Extra clergy were on hand to help those who needed someone to talk to.
“Even for myself, to heal. I find that I’m having some difficulty grasping everything that’s happening,” Lizotte said.
People were invited to sign a book of condolences, pick up a black ribbon and light small candles to remember the toddler.
After a brief ceremony in the church, many filtered back out to the memorial, where a group of First Nations singers captivated the crowd with their song.
“I try not to cry. Memories of you and I, in my heart in my dreams. You will always be.”
The toddler’s remains were found Friday afternoon in the church yard, but police said they had been there for three days before being discovered. “He likely passed before he was placed at the church,” Staff Sgt. Duane Hunter with the EPS Homicide Section said.
Homicide detectives said the cause of the boy’s death was trauma.
Hunter said Anthony had “bruises all over his body” and police have yet to determine a motive for the “heinous crime.”
“He was living a terrible life full of violence and one that is incredibly sad and you don’t even want to speak about,” Hunter said. “I’m a dad with three kids; it lays heavy on everyone.”
WATCH ABOVE: The Edmonton Police Service news conference Monday afternoon with Staff Sgt. Duane Hunter from the EPS Homicide Section.
Joey Stanley Crier, 26, and Tasha-Lee Mack, 25, are charged with one count each of second-degree murder, criminal negligence causing death, assault and failing to provide necessaries of life. Crier is also charged with assault causing bodily harm.
Police said both were the toddler’s guardians. Hunter said Crier was the boy’s father and Mack is Crier’s girlfriend.
The boy’s aunt, Brandi Raine, said Anthony, who was born in September 2015, had been staying with his father while his mom was going to school.
A statement from the Raine family Monday night said there was a an informal arrangement between both parents:
“While Anthony was in the care of his father, it was assumed that adequate care was being provided and there was no need for concern. While he was on visitations with his maternal family he was provided with great love and care,” part of the statement said.
It went on to ask for privacy and respect for the grieving family: “Anthony will be greatly missed and his little soul needs to be able to rest in peace.”
A GoFundMe page collecting money for the boy’s funeral expenses said the child’s mom is Dalyce Raine from the Louis Bull reserve, which is one of the four First Nations that make up the Maskwacis community in central Alberta.