Bodies of Jasmine Lovett, Aliyah Sanderson believed to be found, Calgary police make arrest
The bodies were found on Monday at 4 a.m. about 50 kilometres west of the city in a wooded area in Kananaskis Country near Grizzly Creek, according to police.
More than 50 police officers and officials were involved in an extensive search of an area that spanned Bragg Creek and Priddis in the days that followed the disappearance of the mother and daughter.
Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta said the man previously identified as the “primary suspect” in the case was re-arrested at about 11 a.m. Monday and is facing two charges of second-degree murder.
WATCH: ‘It’s a very sad feeling when you need to notify the families’: Calgary police
“We believe that Jasmine and Aliyah were killed sometime between Tuesday, April 16 and Wednesday, April 17,” Schiavetta said Monday.
“We believe their bodies were subsequently transported by the suspect to the Grizzly Creek area sometime between Wednesday, April 17 and Saturday, April 20.
“We believe the suspect and Jasmine were in a relationship and this was a targeted attack motivated by domestic-related matters.”
Calgary police said they could not release the identity of the man arrested as charges have not formally been laid.
Lovett and Sanderson were reported missing on April 23 after they didn’t show up for a family dinner. They were last seen a week prior, on April 16, according to police. Their disappearance was declared a suspected double-homicide on April 25.
The family of Sanderson told Global News on Monday morning they had met with investigators and were notified the bodies were found in Kananaskis Country and an arrest had been made.
In an emailed statement sent through Calgary police, the Lovett family thanked officers and anyone else who helped in the search for their loved ones.
“We would also like to thank the public for their continued support, which has meant a great deal to us,” the statement read.
“Our lives have been devastated and our hearts are heavy. We are trying to understand how this tragedy could have happened to our loved ones.”
The bodies were removed from the wooded area Monday morning and autopsies began once they arrived back in Calgary. Formal identification will be done by the medical examiner, which Schiavetta said could likely come on Tuesday. The cause of death is not expected to be released.
Schiavetta said investigators were “satisfied” to find the bodies, but said the discovery is a difficult one.
“It’s a very sad feeling when you have to notify the families of that,” Schiavetta said.
“There are a lot of similarities in this case to other domestic homicides that our officers have investigated. I can tell you that the officers that were in Kananaskis last night obviously had a very difficult time when they discovered the bodies.”
WATCH: Charges pending against man questioned in deaths of Calgary mother and daughter
On the same day the disappearances of Lovett and Sanderson were declared suspected homicides, police arrested and questioned a man they identified as the “primary suspect,” however, he was released the next day.
Later that day, Robert Leeming — who Global News confirmed to be the owner of a home in Cranston that was subject to extensive forensic investigation in the case — told media he was arrested and questioned by police in relation to the suspected homicides, before being released a day later.
Leeming said the young mother and daughter lived with him in his Cranston home and that he and Lovett were in an intimate relationship but that she was not his girlfriend.
Schiavetta said it’s believed the suspect and Lovett’s relationship “deteriorated over time.”
“Right now the evidence we have supports second-degree [murder],” Schiavetta said when asked about the nature of the pending charges. “That certainly can be amended by the Crown at any time.”
Calgary police officers were seen outside the home again on Monday. Schiavetta said a search warrant was executed at a Cranston home Monday morning.
Active crime scene in Kananaskis
Police were led to the Bragg Creek area after cellphone pings were identified in the area. On April 29, investigators said the destruction of evidence “by means of burning” was thought to have happened in the area of Bragg Creek, Elbow Falls, Priddis and/or East Kananaskis sometime between Tuesday, April 16 and Saturday, April 20.
Police said investigators would not release information on how the bodies were discovered to “protect the integrity of the investigation and future court proceedings.”
“I can tell you the investigative process picked up momentum over the past few days which led us to locate the bodies early this morning,” Schiavetta said.
In aerial footage from the Global1 helicopter, several police officers could be seen canvassing large swaths of ground and a number of marked and unmarked police vehicles could be seen on the side of the highway.
The collision reconstruction team was brought in to help, as Schiavetta said their analysis and skills are occasionally also used for crime scene construction.
The search for any evidence related to the disappearance of Lovett and Sanderson had been hampered by bad weather for a week, but Schiavetta said the area the bodies were found didn’t have as much snow as what searchers encountered in the Bragg Creek area.
“It’s a large area and obviously the topography is challenging, we have unpredictable weather and currently we have bears in the area,” Schiavetta said, describing the Grizzly Creek search area.
“We’re working with Alberta Parks to make sure all our members are safe.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing family or domestic violence, call 911 if there is immediate danger. Alberta’s Family Violence Information Line can be reached at 310-1818, to get help anonymously in more than 170 languages.
— With files from Global News’ Jenna Freeman
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.