February 15, 2019 12:56 am
Updated: March 13, 2019 10:31 pm

Father charged with 1st-degree murder in death of 11-year-old girl subject of Amber Alert

WATCH ABOVE: The father of an 11-year-old girl has been charged with first-degree murder. Catherine McDonald reports.

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Peel Regional Police say a 41-year-old man arrested in connection with the death of his 11-year-old daughter, who was the subject of an Amber Alert, has been charged with first-degree murder.

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“We are proceeding with a first-degree murder charge. It’s gone to court for the information and it will be laid,” Const. Danny Marttini told reporters earlier during a news conference Friday afternoon.

Police said the girl, identified as Riya Rajkumar, was out with her father for her birthday on Thursday and was supposed to be dropped off with her mother at a predetermined time.

READ MORE: ‘Tremendous sadness’ at Mississauga school after death of 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar

Police said Rajkumar’s mother contacted police at around 7 p.m. due to a concern about her daughter’s safety and a parental abduction investigation was launched.

“That information was actually given to the mother. She received that information from him, which obviously set off her alarms, extreme concern, which was why she attended the division,” Marttini said during a news conference Friday morning.

“When she attended 22 Division, she came with the information that she had received from him that he may cause harm.”

At around 10:30 p.m., police put out an update on social media with a description of Rajkumar and her father as well as a vehicle being driven by the suspect.

Const. Akhil Mooken said early Friday that officers gathered information needed for Ontario Provincial Police to issue an Amber Alert, which went out shortly after 11:30 p.m. Officials asked for anyone who spotted the vehicle to contact 911.

Mooken said a member of the public spotted the vehicle and called police. Ontario Provincial Police officers in the central part of the province arrested the man and took him to the service’s Orillia detachment.

Shortly after the alert went out, Mooken said Rajkumar was found dead inside a home at Hansen Road North and Crawford Drive. The property is owned by the accused.

The Amber Alert was cancelled at around 12:20 a.m. on Friday with officials saying the child was located. It’s unclear how Rajkumar died.

Mooken said the circumstances surrounding Rajkumar’s death are particularly difficult.

“As one can expect in a tragic situation like this where your daughter goes to spend her birthday, and especially on Valentine’s Day with the father, and you expect your child to come home… my heart aches for the family,” he said.

“As a parent, I can’t even begin to imagine what the mom is going through.”

Family members of the father and daughter spoke with reporters outside the home Friday afternoon and called the whole situation “shocking.”

Nancy Ali, the aunt of the accused, said it is a “painful” time for the whole family. Her son, the suspect’s cousin, said Riya was always “full of positive energy.”

“She had smiles where she went,” he said.

The man taken into custody by police was identified as 41-year-old Roopesh Rajkumar. On Friday afternoon he was charged with first-degree murder.

As Roopesh was taken into custody, police said they noticed the suspect was injured. He was subsequently transported to a local hospital and then to a trauma centre for treatment. The nature of his injuries were not disclosed. The accused will appear in court when he is medically cleared.

“There was a medical issue and there was concern for that and he was taken to hospital. He will be in police custody throughout that time,” Marttini said.

Court records obtained by Global News showed Roopesh was charged with assault causing bodily harm and threatening death in 2004, assault and mischief under $5,000 in 2008, and assault in 2015.

In all three cases, the charges were withdrawn. He entered into a peace bond after two of those incidents. It’s unclear who the alleged victims of these alleged assaults were.

Police said as of Friday, investigators were still in the process of collecting evidence inside the home where the girl was located.

“We are looking at an active scene inside the residence. So our forensics will have to go in there, process it,” Marttini said.

“They’ll be taking photographs, they’ll be taking pieces of evidence — everything they need to ensure that we get all the information about what occurred in that residence.”

READ MORE: Peel police disappointed over Amber Alert complaints for missing 11-year-old girl found dead

Meanwhile, police said 911 operators were busy fielding complaints early Friday from people who received the Amber Alert.

“We appreciate and understand that some members of the public may have been affected by the noise and the tones that are provided by the Amber alert,” Mooken said.

“But we certainly hope they understand that the Amber Alert program is designed for us to locate children that may have been abducted whether by parent or some other person. We essentially hope they understand the slight inconvenience this might have caused them.”

A crowdfunding initiative was started by Neighborhood Watch Brampton to cover Riya’s funeral costs. The initial goal was set at $2,500, but it was reached within a few hours. As of 9 p.m. on Friday, more than $6,000 was collected. The group said it would continue to accept donations.

— With files from Catherine McDonald, Jeremy Cohn and Jessica Patton

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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