Murder charges against dad

UPDATE: 10:45 a.m.

Police say a father will be charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 11-year-old daughter after the girl's body was found in his Brampton, Ont., home.

A father who allegedly killed his 11-year-old daughter while the two were supposed to be celebrating the girl's birthday is in police custody and will soon be facing charges in her death, officers west of Toronto said Friday.

Peel regional police Const. Danny Marttini said Roopesh Rajkumar was en route back to Brampton, Ont., the city where his daughter Riya was found dead late Thursday. He was arrested by provincial police some 130 kilometres away, near Orillia, Ont.

Riya was briefly the subject of an Amber Alert on Thursday night, hours after her mother went to police to report that 41-year-old Rajkumar, her former boyfriend, was allegedly making comments indicating his intention to harm both himself and their child, Marttini said.

"She came in already fully concerned saying, 'this is what he's saying to me, I'm concerned for the well-being of my daughter, I need some help,'" Marttini said. "Obviously our investigators took action right away."

The girl did not live with her father on a full-time basis, police said, but had been dropped off at a gas station in nearby Mississauga, Ont., at about 3 p.m. so her father could take her out for her birthday.

Riya was found dead at her father's home shortly after the Amber Alert was issued at around 11:30 p.m., Marttini said.

OPP Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne said a motorist driving on Highway 11 in Oro-Medonte, Ont., shortly before midnight noticed Rajkumar's vehicle, which had been described in the Amber Alert broadcasted to cellphones across the province.

"As a result of the Amber Alert, they observed the vehicle and gave us the coordinates," she said. "Thankfully ... we were able to apprehend this man."

Marttini said it's too early to know what charges the father will be facing, but indicated he will officially be accused in Riya's death.

"There's obviously the potential for first-degree (murder), second-degree or manslaughter," Marttini said. "That conversation has to happen between our homicide bureau and the Crown attorney ... That is the spectrum of charges we're looking at."

The area around Rajkumar's Brampton home was cordoned off by police Friday morning and officers were seen moving around the area.

Several people stopped by the scene to leave flowers and pay their respects.

Emmanuel Okafor, who lives nearby, paused near the home, clasped his hands and said a silent prayer.

"I pray to God the family lives through this," he said. "No family should ever go through this ... It breaks my heart."

Okafor said he followed the situation closely after the Amber Alert was issued.

"It's senseless," he said. "We were really hoping last night she would be found alive, not knowing this morning we'd have this tragic news."

Christopher Willis, who also lives nearby, said the neighbourhood was stunned by the news.

"It's shocking to know this could happen close to home," he said, adding the story has particular resonance for him as the father of a three-year-old girl. "It just seems impossible."

Grief and shock were also setting in at Meadowvale Village Public School in Mississauga, Ont., where Riya was a Grade 5 student.

The school issued a statement expressing shock at the girl's "tragic" death, announcing flags would be lowered to half-mast, and outlining supports available to students struggling to cope with the news.

"Riya was a well-liked student, and her death is deeply felt by everyone at the school," Principal Stacy Service said in the letter. "Even students who did not personally know Riya will also be affected."

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