(TORONTO SUN via NEWS ROOM) — Feb. 14th was Riya Rajkumar’s 11th birthday, her mom’s birthday and Valentine’s Day.
It was also the day she was senselessly murdered — allegedly by her own dad.
“We are proceeding with a first-degree murder charge,” Peel Regional Police Const. Danny Marttini said Friday.
When that happens depends on how fast the accused — Roopesh Rajkumar, 41 — recovers in hospital as a result of a gunshot wound that sources believe was self-inflicted.
“He needs to be aware before a charge can be laid,” said a source.
Sources say the gunshot was not detected until after Peel cops drove up to the Orillia area where he was arrested in a high-risk takedown by the OPP in the early morning hours.
Marttini said it was decided to take him to a “trauma centre” in Toronto where he remains under guard.
Police were also taking a second look inside the vehicle for a firearm. Ontario’s Special Investigations unit was notified, but the police watchdog did not invoke its mandate.
Although innocent until proven guilty, police are also trying to determine a potential motive for such a horrific act — as well as the cause of death.
There were no “obvious signs of trauma” to her body, which makes the results from the scheduled autopsy for Saturday even more coveted for detectives trying to untangle the mystery.
Outside the residence on Hansen Rd. N., where the suspect lived in a basement apartment, the focus was on Riya.
“She was such a sweet little girl,” the accused father’s aunt, Nancy Alli, told reporters.
Her son Ryan added “she was the princess of the family.”
The flag was at half-staff at her elementary school which in an email to parents said the murder “has brought tremendous sadness to the students and staff at Meadowvale Village Public School.”
Riya was described a much-loved, top student who had a “vibrant, sparkling” personality. People were also dropping by the homicide scene to lay flowers in remembrance.
It’s a real head-scratcher how something like this could happen since it was her birthday and should have been precious father and daughter time.
Instead it turned into a nightmare.
A massive search for the suspect and the little girl ensued once she was not returned to her mother at the agreed upon time of around 6 p.m. The mother told to police the father had threatened to harm the girl and himself.
In addition to the actual murder are questions surrounding notification of a missing child — something the public became very aware of when an Amber Alert was issued in the 11 p.m. hour on Thursday and called off at about 12:30 a.m. on Friday after her lifeless body was found in the apartment that police eventually broke into.
One question, respectfully and constructively, for interim chief Chris McCord is will there be a review on how all of this went down — not to lay blame, because it’s always easier in hindsight to determine what should have happened, but to learn from it.
The main area to query is whether or not it would have been prudent to let officers break down the apartment’s door in the 7 p.m hour when they swung by to knock on the door.
Although it’s too early to know if it would have made a difference, Marttini said this is a question officers themselves were asking in retrospect.
The answer may very well end up being Riya’s legacy.
Perhaps like Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996, a new Riya’s rule going forward to just break down doors in searches for missing children just to be sure could be implemented.
But such a recommendation is for future consideration since no such suggestion is going to bring back Riya whose young life was stolen on her birthday and Valentine’s Day.
NOTE: News Room confirmed that Roopesh Rajkumar is a Guyanese national who migrated to Canada.