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Alberta Slain Calgary mother and daughter remembered at funeral service

Lit candles and photographs are seen on display at a vigil for Calgary homicide victims Sara Baillie and her five-year-old daughter Taliyah Marsman, in Calgary, on Sunday, July 17, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The Canadian Press

Sara Baillie and her daughter, Taliyah Marsman, were dancers. Taliyah on stage in red sequins, Ms. Baillie in kitchens and at karaoke.

The two were allegedly murdered last week and their families and friends gathered at one of Calgary's megachurches for their funerals on Thursday. Scott Hamilton, Ms. Baillie's uncle, stood on stage to deliver a tribute to the five-year-old girl and her mom.

"Quite frankly, I'm tired of mourning," he said. "I want an opportunity to celebrate."

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He turned to Justin Hamilton – his son and Ms. Baillie's cousin.

"You ready?"

The two high-fived, put on sunglasses and busted into dance. Michael Jackson's Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough brought mourners to their feet, clapping in time.

But up front, Colin Marsman's family remained seated. Mr. Marsman is Taliyah's father and estranged from Ms. Baillie. His family and Ms. Baillie's family walked down separate aisles when they entered the sanctuary and sat in separate sections at the front.

Police believe that Ms. Baillie, Taliyah and Mr. Marsman all knew the man they suspect killed the child and her mother. Mr. Marsman has insisted he does not know the accused. The Calgary Police Service have ordered the suspect not to communicate with Mr. Marsman.

Eventually, as the music played on, the Marsman family joined the rest of the congregation in dance.

"If there was anything that Sara and Taliyah loved to do, it was dance," Mr. Hamilton said. "Too many times, I saw Sara dance."

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When the Hamiltons finished their tributes, one man stood waiting for them in the aisle between the Marsman and Baillie families. It was Barry Marsman, Taliyah's great uncle.

He embraced the eldest Hamilton. He embraced the younger Hamilton. It was the only visible moment of support shared between the two sides of Taliyah's family during the service.

Nina Cox, Taliyah's cousin on the Marsman side, read a poem Barry Marsman wrote in honour of the little girl. It was in the voice of Taliyah, speaking to her dad.

"Hold our love close and tight and I promise to visit you in your dreams at night. I didn't mean to leave you so soon. Now, I'm dancing with grampy to our favourite tune," Ms. Cox read. "I'll long to wait for you to hold you in my arms. Don't worry daddy, for here in God's house, I'm safe from harm."

Police found Ms. Baillie dead in her basement suite the evening of July 11 after she had failed to show up for work that day. Taliyah was missing. Police issued an Amber Alert for the girl in the early hours of July 12. Witnesses believe they saw Taliyah on the morning of July 11 with an unknown man. Police arrested Edward Downey, who also uses the surname Simmonds, on July 13, believing he was the man witnesses spotted with the child. Investigators found what they believed to be Taliyah's body July 14 and then charged Mr. Downey with two counts of first-degree murder. The charges have yet to be tested in court. He is in remand and his next court appearance is on Aug. 3. Mr. Downey has been convicted in the past of charges related to weapons, drugs and prostitution.

Janet Fredette, Ms. Baillie's mother, spoke to media before the service.

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"We are, of course, overcome with grief by the unnecessary loss of two beautiful members of our family," she said.

Ms. Baillie and her daughter were cremated. At the front of the church sat a small memorial of flowers, Taliyah's red sequined dance top, her aqua Timbits soccer jersey with the number 12 on the back, and her sparkly pink purse. Both sides of Taliyah's family put together video tributes. In the Marsman tribute, Taliyah is wearing the red dance top, holding her dad's hand. In the tribute assembled by Ms. Baillie's family, the girl is posing with her mom in the same outfit. Ms. Baillie posted the picture she is in on her Facebook page in June, noting it was a dance recital.

Near the end of the service, the congregation watched a short video Taliyah had made.

"This is me, Taliyah," she said in the video. "I know how to dance."

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