TORONTO - A mother shot dead as her two-year-old daughter sat within arm's reach in their pickup truck was targeted by a man who laid in wait in the dark for his victim, police said Tuesday.
Toronto police were searching for a male suspect in the slaying of 45-year-old Laura Rios, gunned down outside her condo building in the city's west-end Monday night.
Her daughter was not injured in the shooting and police said the toddler is in a "safe place."
"We believe for reasons unknown to us at this time the victim was targeted," said Det.-Sgt. Pauline Gray of the homicide squad.
"The gunman lay in wait for this woman and, with absolute disregard for the victim and her small child, opened fire."
Investigators said they had no reason to believe Rios was involved in anything illegal.
Rios, who was an employee of an international company, was arriving home about 8:45 p.m. and was tending to her child and organizing herself to get out of the white pickup truck when the gunman fired.
A man, described as 5' 10" to 6' tall and wearing a navy blue hoodie sweat shirt and grey sweat pants, drove off in a dark car with a loud muffler, police said.
Police said they have talked to the victim's relatives and know the whereabouts of the child's father.
Gray said she can't imagine what circumstances would lead to a man gunning down a woman in front of her child.
"Adults have whatever issues they have but this is a lovely innocent little girl and I can't imagine what she'll have to... go through for the rest of her life," she said.
Gray would not say who is looking after the child.
"We have safety concerns for everyone in this matter, so we'll just say the child is in good hands."
Investigators were also studying surveillance videos.
A resident of the condominium building at 2130 Weston Road said while the building's safe the neighbourhood is another story.
"Nobody likes this area. It's dangerous. So many bad people," said Maria Cabral, a 57-year-old homemaker who lives on the floor below the victim.
Cabral said she heard shots sometime after 8:30 p.m. and police came to her door at midnight asking for information.
"I (heard) the shots... about five or six... I saw the officer take the kid to the ... police car," she said. "Thank the Lord... that kid's safe."
The building has generally been a safe one, she added.
"Before (this) I go downstairs any time, during the night... I'm not scared... Everybody's friends," she said.
"But now it's very different. I'm very scared and nervous."
Shabena Kandasamy, 27, lived down the hall from Rios on the 12th floor and sometimes saw the mother and child together.
"Sometimes I saw her in the elevator, I said 'Hi' and she said 'Hi'... Sometimes I saw the child with her mom," said Kandasamy, who called the little girl cute.
Kandasamy, who has lived in the building for three years and has three children, said the murder has left her nervous and scared.
"We don't know what is going on and why it happened," she said.