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The Globe and Mail

Alta. father didn't know drowned boys were with mother

It was a call from the police that gave Curtis McConnell the first hint that something had gone terribly wrong.

But the call was about Mr. McConnell's wife, Allyson, who had been taken to hospital. It wasn't until the panicked Alberta man rushed home to check on his two young boys that he found their bodies, apparently drowned in a bathtub.

"The police didn't know there were kids involved," said Cara Rotenburger, a friend of Mr. McConnell's who spoke to him after Mondays tragic events in Millet, Alta.

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"(Curtis) got a call from the Edmonton Police Service stating that Ally McConnell was in the hospital, to which he responded, Where are my children? " Police told him the boys were with a babysitter or neighbour, Ms. Rotenburger said. Still, Mr. McConnell went home to check.

"(He) went in and looked around for his kids. And they weren't in their rooms or anywhere. He went into a bathroom that they don't use and found his kids ... floating in a tub of water. He pulled them out and laid them out onto the floor and then he ran and got his neighbour.

"He was on the phone, screaming his head off, asking, Why? " Edmonton police have said a woman tried to kill herself Monday by jumping off a bridge onto a busy expressway in the city, although they wouldn't confirm the woman was Allyson McConnell, 31. The woman survived the fall.

A car that police said has ties to the McConnell home was found in the parking lot of a nearby toy store.

RCMP have identified the boys as Connor, 3, and Jayden, 10 months old, and say the medical examiner has deemed the deaths homicides.

Police would not release the cause of death, or give any other information, saying it could jeopardize the investigation.

No one has been arrested and no charges have been laid.

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Mr. McConnell, 31, now with his family, said in a Facebook memorial to his sons that he has been left with "unanswerable questions."

He said he is "holding on to the feelings I got from holding them."

"They loved me so much and I loved them so much."

He said that although he couldn't protect his children, he can still work to be the best person he can be for them.

"I have to live the life my kids would want me to live."

By Tuesday afternoon, a pile of stuffed animals and flowers had been placed as a memorial outside the family home in Millet, a town of about 2,000 southeast of Edmonton.

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The McConnells met in 2005, when Allyson, an Australian, was living in Canada on a work permit. They were married in Australia in 2007 and moved back to Canada.

But court documents show the couple had been going through a painful divorce, with custody of the children a major issue.

In an affidavit, Mr. McConnell said Ms. McConnell had "been threatening me that she wants to move back to Australia with our children. I am fearful that she will attempt to do this without my consent or knowledge."

"I have taken our children's passports for safekeeping," he said.

A statement of defence filed on behalf of Ms. McConnell noted she has limited family contacts in Alberta but has "a broad network of support in Australia" and would "be entitled to significant government financial support should she return to Australia."

The document also says she would have better professional opportunities in Australia.

A final decision in the case was not made, but the judge had ruled the children should stay in Alberta under joint custody, staying with Ms. McConnell, while the matter was being sorted out.

Rotenburger described the McConnells as "a great couple" until recently.

"Ally just wanted to go home," Ms. Rotenburger said. "She just wanted to go back to Australia."

Ms. Rotenburger called Mr. McConnell a great father, happy to do things like join in the fun when his boys and Ms. Rotenburgers daughter played in the ball pit at a recent trip to West Edmonton Mall.

"He tried his best to be the best dad he could be."

She described Ms. McConnell as a quiet person she didn' get to know that well.

"She didn't want to be here any more. She didn't have any family here."

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