Robert Andrew Leeming, 34, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Man charged with second-degree murder in deaths of Calgary woman, toddler

CALGARY — A man suspected of killing a woman and her toddler daughter has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

Robert Andrew Leeming, 34, appeared via video before a justice of the peace in Calgary on Tuesday. His next court date is May 14.

“We had the matter put over a week so that we can have a chance to meet with Mr. Leeming, get some preliminary details if we can from the prosecutor’s office, and determine next steps,” Leeming’s defence lawyer Balfour Der said outside court.

Police said Monday that they had found remains believed to be those of Jasmine Lovett and 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson in a heavily wooded wilderness area in the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary.

Police said the last time the two were seen alive was on April 16. Their family reported them missing a week later after they didn’t show up for a planned dinner.

Police announced about two weeks ago that the mother and child were probably victims of homicide and that investigators had a suspect in custody. Leeming was released the next day.

Leeming, who is from the United Kingdom, previously told media outlets that Lovett and the girl lived in his Calgary home and that he was innocent.

Initial news footage showed him with tousled hair and a beard. During Tuesday’s appearance, he appeared clean-shaven and bald.

“I can tell you that this is obviously a highly stressful time for him,” said Der, who said his client’s overseas family had been in touch.

“There is family support for him clearly.”

Police have said Lovett and Leeming were in a relationship that deteriorated.

Der said that given a child was involved, he hopes guards at the Calgary Remand Centre ensure Leeming’s safety.

“The man is innocent until proven guilty and he should be treated the same as anybody else who’s in there — and that means that he gets protection as anyone else should get.”

Der said he will ask for bail if it’s reasonable to do so.

Investigators believe the woman and toddler were killed between the night of April 16 and early on April 17 and that their bodies were taken to the Kananaskis wilderness between April 17 and 20.

Officers are seeking tips from anyone who saw something suspicious near Grizzly Creek in Kananaskis Country, or who may have seen Leeming’s grey Mercedes SUV around that time.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the victims’ families with memorial costs. Anything raised above and beyond that will go to a women’s shelter in Calgary.

“The family would like to thank everyone for their outpouring of support at this difficult time and would like to maintain their privacy to grieve as a family,” organizer Dana Burrows wrote on the fundraiser page.

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