Parents tasked with explaining the horrific death of a toddler to their young children were among hundreds of people who gathered at a vigil Tuesday night in north Edmonton.
"We explained he's an angel now," said Katelyn Sullivan, who arrived with her two daughters at Good Shepherd Anglican Church, 15495 Castle Downs Rd.
The body of 19-month-old Anthony Joseph Raine was found Friday by a passerby near the church. Homicide investigators believe the body had been left there days earlier.
The toddler's father and his father's girlfriend were charged with second-degree murder in his death. Police said Monday the toddler was covered in bruises and had been living in a violent environment.
"We told (our four-year-old daughter) that a little boy was suffering and he was in pain, and that he's gone to heaven," Sullivan said, holding her 16-month-old daughter. "It's indescribable ... when we found out how old he was."
Anthony Raine's paternal grandmother Connie Crier (left) is hugged by a supporter at the memorial for her 19-month-old grandson.
On Tuesday, hundreds of people added to a growing pile of toys, flowers and balloons layered against the church's north wall.
Aboriginal elder Taz Bouchier, crying, placed a small angel statue beside a bouquet of white roses.
"To know that for three days a young baby was laying here is devastating," she said. "It sounds like he died a horrible death."
People lined up for smudging ceremonies, which Bouchier described as cleansing.
"It carries our prayers to the other side," she said.
Mourners light candles during a vigil service for 19-month-old Anthony Raine inside Good Shepherd Anglican Church.
Inside the church, more than 200 people prayed, lit candles and signed a book of condolences.
Parish priest Jon Connell said he intends to bring the book to the toddler's mother, identified on a GoFundMe page as Dalyce Raine, who lives in the community of Louis Bull Cree Nation at Maskwacis, about 90 km south of Edmonton.
"It's imperative to try and find some sense of healing," he said. "People are shocked, appalled ... and confused. It's the start of grief and it's going to be a process."
Rhonda Spence said she hasn't been able to sleep since hearing about the case.
"I have an 18-month-old grandson," she said. "There are no words ... He could be anybody's grandson, anybody's son, anybody's nephew."
"It's love that is bringing everyone here," she added.
Sullivan said it's difficult to think about how she drives past the church every day.
"I drive my daughter to school," she said. "I drove past last week ... It's really hard to think of this happening right here in this community."
Joseph Crier, 26, is charged with second-degree murder, assault, assault causing bodily harm, failure to provide the necessaries of life and criminal negligence.
Tasha-Lee Mack, 25, is charged with second-degree murder, assault, failure to provide the necessaries of life and criminal negligence.