Father faces first-degree murder charge in death of 11-year-old daughter in Brampton
Chris Fox And Chris Herhalt, CP24.com
Published Friday, February 15, 2019 6:01AM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 15, 2019 11:07PM EST
The father of an 11-year-old girl who was found dead inside a Brampton home following the issuance of an Amber Alert on Thursday night was charged with first-degree murder while receiving treatment at a GTA-area hospital, police said Friday.
Police began an investigation into the abduction of Riya Rajkumar at around 7 p.m. after being contacted by her mother.
The girl was supposed to be celebrating her birthday with her father Roopesh Rajkumar, police said, but was not returned to the custody of her mother by the agreed upon time.
Police say Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, had made comments to the child’s mother indicating that he planned to do harm to himself and his daughter, which prompted her to contact police.
“She received information which obviously set off her alarms which is why she attended the division,” Const. Danny Marttini told reporters on Friday morning. “She (the mother) came in already fully concerned saying ‘This is what he is saying to me, I am concerned for the wellbeing of my daughter and I need some help. Obviously our investigators took action right away.”
Marttini said that investigators asked Ontario Provincial Police to issue an Amber Alert after their initial attempts at locating the girl proved unsuccessful.
That alert was issued at around 11:30 p.m., but approximately 30 minutes earlier, Riya Rajkumar had been found dead in a basement apartment at a residence in the Queen Street and Highway 410 area of Brampton, where the suspect resided.
“At some point (police) received enough information that they felt that that 11-year-old girl could in fact be in the residence and was in need of assistance,” Marttini said.
Roopesh Rajkumar was arrested in a high-risk takedown shortly after 12 a.m., after a motorist saw his vehicle on Highway 11 near Orillia and called 911.
He was held overnight at the Orillia detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police but was transferred into the custody of Peel Regional Police early Friday morning.
Marttini said that once Peel officers took custody of Roopesh Rajkumar, they “noticed a medical concern – about his wellbeing,” and brought him to a local hospital for treatment.
He was later transferred to another hospital equipped with a trauma centre for further treatment where he remained on Friday afternoon.
In the meantime, a document was submitted to Brampton Superior Court to charge Roopesh Rajkumar with first-degree murder.
Later on Friday afternoon, police told CTV News Toronto Roopesh Rajkumar was formally charged over the phone while in hospital.
Marttini said that forensic investigators are combing for evidence at the apartment where the body of the child was located.
A coroner attended the scene where Riya Rajkumar’s body was found and an autopsy is pending.
“We are looking at an active scene inside the residence so our forensics have to go in there and process it. They will be taking photographs, they will be collecting pieces of evidence, everything we need to make sure we have all the information about what occurred in that residence,” she said.
Questions raised about entering father’s home
Marttini said it is standard practice to attend places such as the home of a parent when a missing person is reported, and officers went to the home a short time into their investigation.
But after officers knocked on Roopesh Rajkumar’s door and heard no response, there was little more they could do without further information.
“If nobody answers, that’s as far as we can go,” Marttini said, saying police need exigent circumstances above and beyond a general fear for a minor’s safety before forcing their way in to a home.
“If they felt that the circumstances were there they would have proceeded.”
Victim was Grade 5 student at Mississauga school
Riya Rajkumar was enrolled in Grade 5 at Meadowvale Village Public School in Mississauga.
In a message sent to parents on Friday, the principal, Stacy Service, said that Rajkumar was a “well-liked student” whose death is “deeply felt by everyone at the school.”
Service said that counsellors with the Peel District School Board's Critical Incident Response Team are at the school today and will remain there as long as they are needed.
She said that a memorial table has also been set up in the school’s library so that staff and students can leave messages of remembrance and condolence.
“Even students who did not personally know Riya will also be affected by this tragedy,” she wrote in the letter.
According to Peel District School Board spokesperson Carla Pereira, students and staff are remembering Riya Rajkumar for her “boisterous laugh” and the “fun loving spirit that she had in her classroom and outside the walls of her classroom.”
Pereira said that the mood inside the school is “pretty somber” today.
“She was an academically successful student, a well-liked student, a popular student so certainly that is something that is being talked about today in conversations with grief counsellors,” she told CP24.
Brampton Mayor Patrick said City of Brampton flags will be lowered to half-mast in honour of the Riya.
"My thoughts are with the Rajkumar family and friends. I know our community will provide support to this family," Brown said in a statement released Friday evening.
Other politicians, including Mayor John Tory, Premier Doug Ford, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also issued statements Friday offering condolences to the young girl's family.
A vigil is expected to be held for Riya in Brampton on Tuesday night, a spokesperson from Brown's office confirmed.