The family of a woman accused in the death of an Edmonton toddler say the child was at their home just hours before police say he was abandoned.
Nineteen-month-old Anthony Raine’s lifeless body was discovered April 21, under a blanket in the parking lot of the Good Shepherd Anglican church in northeast Edmonton.
Police said the little boy was left there several days earlier, on April 18, between 10:51 a.m. and 11:51 a.m.
The toddler’s father, Joey Stanley Crier, 26, and his girlfriend, Tasha-Lee Mack, 25, are both charged with second-degree murder, criminal negligence causing death, failing to provide the necessaries of life and assault. Crier is facing an additional charge of assault causing bodily harm.
The pair had been staying with Mack’s mother and her roommate Terry, who says Mack considered him a father-figure.
When he heard about the arrests, Terry said, “my gut dropped. Like, how can this friggin’ be?”
“It’s been a living hell” since then, he said, adding he fears for the family’s safety.
“Society has already made their judgement without having all the facts, and that’s the hardest part.”
Fearing for their safety, Global News has agreed to withhold Terry’s last name and Mack’s mother’s name.
Terry said Mack, Crier and baby Anthony arrived at his home Monday morning.
“We did not see the child at all,” said Terry.
“All we saw was him bundled up when he came in with the stroller.”
Terry said the couple took Anthony down to the basement, saying he was tired from the late night before and needed to catch up on sleep. He said both Crier and Mack took turns checking on the boy.
On Tuesday morning, Anthony was bundled up again as Crier and Mack prepared to leave the house. Mack’s mother saw them go out the front door, but Terry said she had no physical contact with the toddler.
“She does not know if he was alive or not at that point,” Terry said.
“I’m mourning him just as much as anybody else,” Mack’s mother said.
Terry told Global News he left his home to run errands, and when he returned at 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, Mack and Crier were there, but not Anthony.
“They’re like, ‘yeah he’s over at his auntie’s place. We’re getting a break from him while we get everything prepared for the move and get everything going for us.’ ”
Terry and Mack’s mother didn’t think anything of it. This visit was the first time they had met Crier. They said the couple had been living in Maskwacis for months, and had called weeks earlier to tell them they had planned to move to Edmonton to find a permanent home.
Crier talked about getting his taxes in order, and Mack’s mother said he was polite, did the dishes and took out the garbage.
Three days later, Terry was watching the news when police held up the clothing Anthony had been wearing.
“The shoes, I saw the shoes. Right there, flags went up in my head.”
Terry left his bedroom to find Crier, Mack and her mother watching the same news coverage.
“I came downstairs and said, ‘there was a baby found over here.'”
He said Crier replied, “‘Oh, no way, I feel sorry for it.'”
“Up until their arrest, everything seemed ordinary.”
The next day, April 22, police released surveillance images that showed a couple pushing a stroller, and Terry said he recognized them right away and called police. By that time, Mack and Crier had been arrested on or near a city bus.
Mack called from the police station that night and Terry said told her mother she was in trouble.
Terry said he helped raise Mack when she was a teenager and has been in her life for the past decade. He called her a quiet girl, who likes to sit at home on her computer, didn’t do drugs and was never violent.
He and her mother had had little contact with Mack over the past six months. They said they are struggling to fill in the missing pieces of her story, especially after hearing police say that Anthony had been living “a terrible life full of violence.”
“We need to go back and look at that whole child’s life,” said Terry.
“I hope the truth comes out,” said Mack’s mother. “Rest in peace, little buddy.”