LEVIS, Que. — The family of two Quebec sisters found dead after an Amber Alert bid farewell to the young girls in an emotional funeral ceremony Monday as the mystery surrounding the fate of their father persists.
Norah and Romy Carpentier were described by their mother, Amelie Lemieux, as pure and gentle souls.
“Thank you for choosing me to be your mother, a privilege that was priceless,” Lemieux said, reading from a letter she wrote to her two little girls.
“Even if I didn’t have enough time by your side, I will continue to cherish, one by one, each memory, photo, video and continue to hear your soft voices call me ‘maman’,” Lemieux said through tears.
“I love you madly.”
The girls were remembered fondly — Romy, the clown who wanted to do it all and Norah, the ingenious artist who dreamed of being a video game designer. Each family member, beginning with Lemieux, put a rose in a vase near photos of the sisters — a symbolic gesture as both girls had “Rose” as a middle name.
The funeral in the girls’ hometown of Levis, Que., was limited to family due to COVID-19 concerns, but hundreds gathered in the complex’s parking to watch the ceremony on giant screens. Afterwards, two doves were released into the afternoon sky.
The bodies of Norah, 11, and Romy, 6, were found in the woods July 11 in St-Apollinaire, a suburb southwest of the provincial capital. Their father, Martin Carpentier, 44, who is suspected by police of abducting them, remains missing.
Marie-Pierre Genois, a friend of Lemieux’s since high school, stood in the intense noon sun, waiting to give condolences. “It’s to support her,” Genois said. “It’s a terrible ordeal, so it’s important for me to be here for her.”
Judith Gagnon also knew Lemieux and the girls. She said they’d spent time together during the Christmas holiday. “There is no answer to all of this,” Gagnon said outside the funeral complex. “It is a tragedy that we will have to live through for years, that we will have in our hearts.”
Nearby, a man chimed in: “I hope that justice will be done.”
Quebec provincial police suspended their ground search for Carpentier Saturday after a 10-day manhunt, but maintain they are determined to find him.
Police say they believe Carpentier and his daughters were involved in a car crash on the evening of July 8 in St-Apollinaire, but nobody was inside the vehicle when responders reached the scene.
Josee Masson, founder and executive director of a local organization dedicated to helping youth suffering through tragedy, presided over the funeral. The family posted a message on the funeral home’s website thanking police, emergency responders and volunteers who searched for the sisters.
To Norah and Romy, they wrote: “We will always regret not having had more than the 11 and six springtimes you were present in our lives, but the memories and love you gave us will remain etched in us forever.”
Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, a well-known victims’ rights advocate in Quebec, said comforting the young girls’ mother brought back the pain he felt when his daughter, Julie, was killed in 2002. He lost his other daughter, Isabelle, in a car crash in 2005.
Boisvenu said he came to the funeral to give the family hope. Despite being robbed of that which they hold most dear, they can find their way again, the senator said.
“I just wanted to tell them yes, it’s possible to rebuild themselves, it’s possible to have dreams,” Boisvenu said.
Gilles Lehouillier, mayor of Levis, said the city plans to install a plaque honouring the sisters in a park where locals had turned a gazebo into a makeshift memorial after their deaths.
Meanwhile, a senior provincial police spokesman said Monday if Martin Carpentier is still alive, he has likely almost run out of resources. Police had intensified their search Thursday after stating the fugitive had taken items from a trailer within the search perimeter.
But Chief Insp. Guy Lapointe said four days have passed since then, and investigators believe Carpentier is ill-equipped to ensure his basic needs for an extended period.
If he is alive, police said, Carpentier’s physical appearance has likely changed, and he may be weak, distressed and unable to make rational decisions. Lapointe said it would be extremely difficult for anyone to survive in a dense forest for so long, let alone when they are the subject of an intense manhunt.
Deputy Premier Genevieve Guilbault also paid her respects to the family Monday. She told a news conference she has confidence in the provincial police investigation.
“There is still an investigation, steps that are being taken to find Martin Carpentier,” Guilbault said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2020.
Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press