Dozens of people gathered at a church Wednesday to bid an emotional farewell to a mother and her child who were stabbed to death outside an Edmonton school earlier this month.
Cree mother Carolann Robillard, 35, and 11-year-old Sara Miller, who had recently started using the first name Jayden, were killed in what police said was a random attack outside Crawford Plains School on May 5.
Those who attended the funeral at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, northeast of downtown Edmonton, donned T-shirts with a photo of the mother and child. Attendees embraced each other ahead of the service
Robillard’s sister, Amanda Robillard, said purple was her sibling’s favourite colour. She said a community member donated pins with a purple ribbon for the funeral to honour Robillard and Jayden.
With a blend of Indigenous traditions and Catholic practices, their caskets were carried inside the church as the hall resounded with Cree drums and singing, with the scent of sage lingering in the air.
“It doesn’t feel real,” Amanda Robillard said. “(Carolann) cared about her kids. She was a great mother.”
Robillard was studying to become a teacher’s assistant, the sister said in her eulogy.
“Carolann will be remembered for her continuous dancing, her deadly auntie laugh, her big dimples and her beautiful outlook on life,” she said.
She added that Jayden had a “huge heart” and loved everyone.
“(He needed) to make others feel accepted, he made sure to seek out the new janitor at school simply to tell him, ‘Thank you for what you do.”’
He also aspired to become a professional basketball player, Amanda Robillard said.
She said their deaths “tore our family apart.”
Police have said the man who killed Robillard and Jayden had been facing assault charges for allegedly attacking a man on a scooter. The charges were stayed two days before the mother and child were stabbed.
Officers shot the man during an altercation with him shortly after the stabbings. He died in the hospital five days later.
Police have said the 33-year-old was the sole person responsible for the deaths. Since he was incapacitated in the hospital and later died, police said they won’t be naming the killer or laying any charges against him.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, the province’s police watchdog, is investigating the shooting.
Investigators have said the killer was known to police, had mental health issues and a record of assaulting children.
After the funeral Wednesday, Robillard’s brother questioned the security at the school.
“We don’t know how long he was sitting at that park. Schools need to change, security-wise,” George Robillard told reporters outside the church.
On the day of the stabbing, Jayden and his eight-year-old sister had walked home from school but could not get inside, police have said.
They walked back to the school to meet their mother when they were attacked. The eight-year-old escaped but witnessed the stabbings.
Robillard was a single mother of three and her two surviving children are being raised by Robillard’s sister and mother.
During the funeral Wednesday, Katti Holmes, Robillard’s best friend, described her as the life of the party.
“The day I found out about her (death) was my birthday,” Holmes said of her friend of eight years.
“She was supposed to be there.”