Police find 'items of interest' in search for Quebec father after missing girls found dead
ST-APOLLINAIRE, QUE -- Police in Quebec are still searching a heavily wooded area in Saint-Apollinaire for Martin Carpentier, the father of the two girls whose bodies were discovered Saturday following a three-day Amber Alert.
Monday's search is focusing on the same wooded area where police discovered the bodies of Romy Carpentier, six, and Norah Carpentier, 11, after provincial police said "elements of interest" were found, though would not disclose what they were.
Surete du Quebec Sgt. Ann Mathieu said search teams were focusing on a sector near rang Saint-Lazare and Bois-Joly, also raising the possibility the man may be unconscious or dead.
"Can we say 50/50? In fact, the time passing by, we cannot neglect that maybe he could not be alive. But also the information that we have can let us think that he could still be alive. There's a lot of sheds around here that he could maybe find a place to (hide). So we can't neglect any hypothesis at this moment," she said.
On Sunday, police narrowed in on the woods when sightings of Carpentier were reported.
“Some people said they saw him so we are continuing to focus on that area,” Mathieu said at the time.
L’Association des Scouts du Canada spokesperson Dominique Moncalis confirmed that Carpentier was a pack scouter with the 128 Charny chapter of the Scouts and there is a vigil set up at Parc des Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere. Video is circulating of the father and daughter Norah in their Scout uniforms. Norah was a Cub Scout and Romy was set to enter the Beaver Scouts when she turned seven.
Moncalis told CTV News that the association plays games in nature and sleep outside, but only learn basic survival skills.
A man places a message at a memorial for Norah and Romy Carpentier, Sunday, July 12, 2020 in Levis, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Police are using ATVs, drones and K-9 patrols, as well as a helicopter as part of their search for Carpentier. The 44-year-old is described as 5'10" and 130 pounds.
- READ MORE: 'Incomprehensible tragedy': Manhunt for father after deaths of daughters who were subject of Amber Alert
STAY HOME, DON'T INTERFERE
The SQ also made a plea to residents on Sunday to not livestream the manhunt for Carpentier after an incident Saturday night.
“What happened yesterday is someone did a Facebook live to ask citizens to come over and pursue the search with us, but in fact those kind of initiatives are really not good to help our police officers,” said SQ Sgt. Ann Mathieu. “It’s called false calls that we have to verify, so it’s going to slow down the investigation.”
Mathieu said around 100 people went into the woods after hearing a noise to see what was going on. Police say the influx of people contaminated the scene and caused the SQ’s K-9 squad to be ineffective.
“So that’s why we ask the people, we appreciate the work you want to do for us, we appreciate your goodwill, but doing so is not a good idea to help us. It’s not helping us,” said Matthieu.
“Stay home. Just look on your property. You’re the best person to know exactly if there’s something wrong on your property. If so, call us we’re going to do the verification about it.”
Police are still analyzing the scene to determine what may have led to the young girls’ deaths.
“We’re working on different things. We’re still waiting for the autopsy results, we’re still waiting for the scene results because those elements can be important but I cannot say more than that,” said Mathieu.
A QUEBEC TOWN TRANSFORMED
The attention of the entire province has been on the case, especially in the town of just over 6,000 where it's playing out.
Police have transformed the parking lot of a community centre into a base of operations and helicopters have been taking off and landing at a nearby soccer field.
Cedric Lambert, a native of St-Apollinaire, which is about a 30-minute drive from Quebec City, said he never imagined he'd see this type of deployment in his quiet little corner of the province.
"Seeing police everywhere, helicopters, you wouldn't have believed it," Lambert, 23, said. "Then to know that they found the little girls here is stressful."
His partner, Marie-Myriam Dion, a mother of two, said she doesn't feel safe.
"I can't wait for them to find him," she said. "I lock my doors at home as soon as I am alone."
Lambert was concerned Carpentier could represent a danger, given he's been missing since Wednesday and couldn't very well return to town to buy food.
One local described the area as a prime hiding spot.
Gerald Rousseau, a St-Apollinaire resident for 40 years, lives about four kilometres from where the police are searching. He said there's plenty of places to hide in the densely forested area.
"There are plenty of small chalets around there, cabins, sugar shacks, trailers," Rousseau said. "It's a good place to hide ... people come down on the weekends, but there aren't a lot of people coming down given what's happening, so there's often food left behind inside."
He also did as police asked and surveyed his own property.
"I turned my own property over, I didn't find anything," Rousseau said.
Police have said the girls and their father were believed to have been in a car crash on Highway 20 in St-Apollinaire on Wednesday evening.
Investigators said the car was heading east on the highway when it skidded into the median, flipped over and landed on the shoulder on the opposite side of the highway.
But police did not find any occupants inside the car when they arrived.
Lambert and Dion had joined the search on Saturday, criss-crossing the wooded area by car before the sisters' bodies were found, with autopsies to determine the cause of death still pending.
Jocelyne Fortier lives in the neighbouring village of St-Agapit, where police have also looked.
"It's appalling, it's stressful," she said. "We lock our doors, we don't know if it's dangerous or not."
The car accident that triggered the investigation happened near her brother's residence. And the sisters remind her or her own nieces, about the same age.
"As soon as there are children involved, it's even more difficult," Fortier said.
OUTPOURING OF GRIEF
There was a mass outpouring of grief Saturday night after the two girls' bodies were discovered.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault posted on Twitter calling the girls' deaths a "national tragedy."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added that he was "devastated by the news."
'CALL FOR HELP': PREMIER
As he opened his press briefing on COVID-19 Monday, Legault made a statement about the tragedy.
"I can tell you how shocked I am, and I guess all Quebecers are shocked like me. Unfortunately, the alleged culprit has not been found, '' he said. He added that the police will do everything to find the suspect, before asking people in distress to ask for help.
"When we feel that we are exhausted or when we see in those close to us, our spouse, that there is someone who looks distressed, it is not embarrassing, it is not shameful, it's responsible to call and ask for help, '' he said.
Legault mentioned the parent support line 1-800-361-5085.
This is a developing story that will be updated.
- With reporting from The Canadian Press.