Missing on Christmas Eve: The Grisly Discovery of a Young Man’s Body

Posted on February 20, 2014

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Anthony Fernandez, news, murder

-December 24, 2013

It was Christmas Eve. I was staying with my friends, Doug, Suzanne and their son Aidan, in a quiet neighbourhood in Calgary, Alberta. The house, nestled in the hills of Bridgeland, boasts panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains and downtown skyline. As we celebrated into the night, inside the home of another family, single mother, Daisy Fernandez, was growing anxious as her young son failed to return home.

Over the following hours and days on Facebook and Twitter, a message and a school picture of 19-year old Anthony Fernandez, began its flurry of rounds, sent out by family and friends:

“R/T Anthony Fernandez, missing since Dec 24 in #Calgary 6ft 150-160 lbs black spikey hair drives 09mazda6 burgundy/blk”

Calgary, Murder–December 25th, 2013

Sometime the following day, Suzanne noticed a small burgundy black car sitting parked in the upper back alley of our house. Oblivious to the flurry of tweets, we thought nothing of it since it seemed reasonable to assume that any number of neighbouring homes had lingering holiday guests.

Two days later, a chilling discovery.

–December 27th, 2013

The car turned out to be suspicious; its obtrusive shadow finally reported by a concerned neighbour and investigated by the police. By the late afternoon, we were sipping drinks on the front balcony as we listened to the sound of chirping birds and melting snow. For those not familiar with Calgary, its location near the mountains, makes it home to the infamous Chinook Winds:

Those who have not the warm, invigorating Chinook winds of this country, cannot well comprehend what a blessing they are. The icy clutch of winter is lessened, the earth throws off its winding sheet of snow. Humanity ventures forth to inhale the balmy spring like air. Animated nature rejoices.” (1900–Calgary weekly Herald)

Behind the house and up to the right, the balmy winds turned into gales of dread as yellow tape stretched across the hilly landscape. A police van and an unmarked vehicle sat a small distance from the deserted car with tinted windows. Enthralled by the mystery unfolding behind us at dusk, we gave into our morbid curiosity. Doug entered the house briefly and re-emerged with a pair of binoculars. He moved stealthily to the far corner of the house and spied on the team working grimly above.

Anthony Fernandez, Calgary, CrimeAs Doug scoped the area, he described the scene. One door to the car was open. A woman was carefully documenting its contents, hidden by a shroud of tinted glass, with her camera. A group of darkly clothed figures stood huddled together. There was a detective, police officers, forensic team and a person sporting the acronym, O.C.M.E. Our hearts dropped when we realized what those benign initials meant: The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

I sucked in my breath. There was a dead body in the car.

We sat quietly, gazing towards the West. We felt the chill of the ominous black clouds pressing down on the city skyline. The wind picked up and we shivered. Earlier in the day, a flash freeze warning had been issued to Calgarians. A “flash freeze” is a rain event that occurs with temperatures above freezing followed by a cold front that brings a blast of freezing cold air. It can be very treacherous.

At 6pm, we went inside to get ready for our night at the theatre. An hour later, we exited the house. Our cheeks burned as we moved through the vortex of howling winds and freezing snow. As the investigators carried on with their grisly task, we hopped into the car and ploughed our way to the theatre. Upon our treacherous return home, we found the investigators preparing to tow away the suspicious car. Its deathly contents likely already en route to the morgue.

Alley, Calgary, Crime–December 28th, 2013

At 11:30 the next morning, I heard a firm knock at the front of the house. Still dressed in my pajamas, I opened the door. There stood an attractive but sombre looking man who introduced himself as Detective Steve Adair. He explained to us that he was investigating a homicide. He asked if we had noticed anything suspicious over the past few days. All we could tell him was that the now perilous car had sat in the same spot for several days. He thanked us, and we shut the door. Despite the sunlit sky, now calm after the storm, I found myself feeling unsettled.

Minutes later, I was standing in the mudroom at the back of the house. My heart skipped a few beats when I saw a blonde woman snooping around the garage and South side of the house. I swiftly swung open the door and gave her quite a startle. She introduced herself as Nancy Hixt, a Crime Reporter from Global TV. (Apparently, she had no shame in sneaking around private homes sniffing for clues). I told her that we knew nothing about what happened—just that something bad happened—and then with some difficulty, got her to leave.

By late afternoon, the grisly discovery of a young man’s body hit the news.

murder, anthony fernandez, calgary

Anthony with his mother Daisy Fernandez

According to police, the family of Anthony Fernandez reported him missing on Boxing Day (December 26th), two days after he was seen last. One day later, of course, the police found his body in that car. It is heart wrenching to be witness (albeit at a distance) to the unfolding of such a horrific event. In fact, you start wondering if you could have done something more or if you had only paid more attention. Obviously, this young man’s death is a tragic loss. His friends and family most certainly must be desperate for answers. Those who are closest to him describe Anthony as a friendly, positive person who was very close to his mother. Friend Austin Savary described Fernandez as a kind-hearted man who loved sports and “always took care of others before himself. I’m heartbroken,” he said. “He was such a good kid.” Savary has also set up a Facebook page soliciting donations to help Fernandez’s mom with funeral costs.

–January 1, 2013

Fernandez’s death is still an unsolved mystery. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. Det. Adair has not yet elaborated on the circumstances surrounding the grisly discovery, but did confirm the autopsy for Dec. 30th.  Thus far, the police have withheld the cause of death. It is still yet unclear how long his body was in the alley or how it ended up there.

George Taylor, who also lives nearby, said he noticed the car parked there, but didn’t think much of it.

“The car was sitting there for a couple of days,” he said. “I didn’t recognize it. I just figured it was someone visiting somebody.”

Homicide Unit Staff Sgt. Grant Miller said the investigation is in its early stages and it’s too early to tell if Fernandez’s death was random or targeted. “At this point, we haven’t ruled anything out and our investigation is moving forward from here,” Miller said.

search team, evidence, crime, calgary

Search and rescue teams spent hours combing through an area in Bridgeland on Wednesday, January 1, 2013. –Global News / Nathan Luit

This afternoon I went out to the studio. A row of lilac bushes runs along the steps to the studio out back. Apart from two paths out, the bushes create a barrier between the property and park. As I look out at the hill (as I do more frequently now), I hear voices and see a large search team making its way horizontally across the hilly park. They each have a pole in hand that they sweep over the snow-covered ground. I suspect they are searching for much-needed evidence or clues to find the person responsible for killing Anthony.

So, what happened to this young man on Christmas Eve when the Chinook Winds blew in? Maybe an offer to help led to a tragic end. Or, maybe he had a secret life? The isolated alley is a popular spot for photographers, but occasionally frequented by drug dealers and prostitutes.  His death for the moment remains shrouded in a mystery, but that’s what good investigators do to protect the evidence and follow the clues.

Losing a loved one under any tragic circumstances is horrific enough, but losing a young son over the Christmas season is pure anguish. As I look into the smiling face of Anthony Fernandez, I try to ease the sadness by calling up warm chinook winds and the love that a parent has for her young son.

If you need me you can find me here waitin’ on a change

Staring at the distance and askin’ what it takes

To make that old Chinook turn back and blow the other way

And maybe if I’m lucky have it blow me home again

— Chinook Wind by Corb Lund & the Hurtin’ Albertans

[The case remains unsolved and is still under police investigation. Please share this article far and wide so we can help to find Anthony’s killer. My heart goes out to his family and friends, but especially his mother Daisy. Anyone with information on either case can call police at 403-266-1234 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477]

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