A man who had picked up his 11-year-old daughter to celebrate her birthday is in police custody after her body was found in his basement apartment, and he’ll soon be facing charges, police in Brampton, Ont., said Friday.
Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested after an Amber Alert was issued around 11 p.m. ET Thursday in the search for Riya Rajkumar. Her body was found about an hour later in his apartment in the city about 30 kilometres northwest of Toronto. Marttini also confirmed a homicide investigation is underway.
Marttini said Riya’s mother initially contacted police to report her daughter hadn’t been returned to her at the agreed time of 6:30 p.m. Riya did not live with her father full time, police said, but had been dropped off at a gas station in neighbouring Mississauga at around 3 p.m. so he could take her out to celebrate her birthday.
Her mother had received concerning messages from Roopesh Rajkumar, her former boyfriend, that indicated he intended to hurt himself and their daughter.
“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.”
After several hours of fruitless investigation, an Amber Alert was issued but cancelled after officers found Riya’s body, Marttini explained.
Rajkumar was arrested by OPP on Highway 11 near Orillia, about 130 kilometres north of Brampton, around midnight, after a caller reported seeing the silver Honda Civic described in the Amber Alert.
Rajkumar was transferred to the custody of Peel police overnight and it’s expected he will be charged, said Marttini. Officers will meet with Crown lawyers Friday afternoon to discuss what specific charges he may face.
“Because there is a level of the severity of the case, there’s obviously the potential for first-degree (murder), second-degree or manslaughter,” Marttini said.
“My heart aches for this family and as a parent, I can’t even begin to imagine what the mom is going through.”
On Friday morning, Riya’s elementary school sent an email to families to tell them counsellors would be on hand to support her friends and classmates for “as long as they are needed.”
“This tragedy has brought tremendous sadness to the students and staff at Meadowvale Village Public School,” the email read.
“Riya was a well-liked student, and her death is deeply felt by everyone at the school.”
Staff at the school have set up a memorial for Riya in the foyer, it added.
Meanwhile, communications officers with Peel police revealed on social media that the force received a series of complaints from residents that the Amber Alert was issued at a late hour.
“I can’t even begin to describe how disappointing and upsetting it is to read the comments, emails and calls to our communications bureau complaining about receiving an Amber Alert late at night,” wrote Const. Akhil Mooken on Twitter.
“I appreciate that a lot of people were sleeping, but the immediate need to locate the child outweighed the momentary inconvenience that some people encountered,” he continued. “Tragically this incident did not have the outcome we were all hoping for but the suspect was located as a direct result of a citizen receiving the alert and calling 911. The system works.”