About 150 people turned out for a candlelight vigil Thursday night shortly after police said an Amber Alert for little Kienan Hebert would be extended for another 24 hours through today.
Police are looking for convicted sex offender Randall Hopley, 46, whose extensive criminal background includes at least one brush with the law involving a child.
After a prayer and a moment of silence Thursday, town Coun. Margaret McKie asked everyone to turn on their porch light to "light the way for him to come home."
"That's just a symbol," she said. "It's a hard knock for our community to have a little three-year-old that's been away from home."
McKie spent the day searching with other volunteers and said she kept praying she would stumble on the little boy, wrapped in his blue blanket and sucking his thumb.
Those at the vigil said it was important for the community to show support.
"We're just here to support the family and to just pray for the safe return of this poor innocent little child," said Sandra Henriet.
"It's still impossible to even imagine. It doesn't even seem real that it could be happening. It's terrible," added her friend Rosa Gilmar.
Kienan's father, Paul, said his large family is "100 per cent sure" the boy will be returned unharmed.
"As time prolongs, we'll see where that takes us," the emotional father said. "We have to be optimistic."
He said the family, which includes Kienan and his seven siblings, has already been down a long road with their son Caleb, who has undergone three heart surgeries.
"Now with Kienan it's the same feeling. A life-and-death scenario and we're just taking it moment by moment."
The family, whose children range in age between two to 23, moved from Peace River, Alta., about four months ago.
During this ordeal, a large collection of aunts, uncles and cousins have hunkered down in a house half a block from their home. Paul Hebert said his Baptist faith is helping and he is grateful at how the community has rallied behind them.
"How do I put this? It's one kid and look at the resources we're pulling together for one kid ... our kid ... which is amazing right?" he said with a catch in his voice.
"You can have a disaster and you're not getting as much support as we're getting today. We're very humbled."
Documents and recollection paint a disturbing picture of the person police believe may be linked to Kienan's disappearance.
In November 2007, Hopley was charged with break and enter, unlawful confinement and attempted abduction, confirmed Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie. The indictment for the case indicates the complainant was under 16 years old.
Hopley pleaded guilty to the break and enter and was sentenced to 18 months in jail, but the unlawful confinement and attempted abduction were stayed over concerns about evidence, said MacKenzie.
In the mid-1980s, Hopley was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to two years in federal prison, the National Parole Board confirmed. The board didn't have details about what happened or the age of the victim because parole records are destroyed after 10 years.
This past June, Hopley was sentenced to two months in jail and two months of probation after he was convicted of an assault that occurred in Sparwood in April.
Sherry Benko, chairwoman of the Sparwood Public Library board, said Hopley was recently banned from the premises after a woman was assaulted outside it's doors.
"She was bleeding and she had to go to hospital," said Benko.
"We've had issues with him. Two of my staff had to go to court and he was convicted of assault last year."
His stepfather, Doug Fink, said Hopley stopped by his mother and stepfather's home in nearby Fernie on Tuesday, though Fink said he wasn't home at the time.
Orville Sheets has known Hopley since the mid-1990s, and said Hopley had been at his home as recently as Tuesday, though he was gone by the time Sheets woke up Wednesday morning .
Sheets said he was surprised to learn Hopley's name linked to the Amber Alert.
"He's basically a square shooter, you know," said Sheets.
"If he owes you something, he pays you and he doesn't do drugs, he don't smoke cigarettes, he don't drink beer, so, he's actually kind of a quiet guy. He doesn't like being pushed around. That's one thing."
The RCMP said Hopley has no known connection to the boy, who vanished sometime Tuesday night or Wednesday morning , but they want to speak with him. Hopley is believed to be driving a brown 1987 Toyota Camry with the licence plate 098RAL.
The Amber Alert issued Wednesday evening was broadcast throughout B.C. and Alberta, asking drivers to keep an eye out for the suspect vehicle.
RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk declined to say what led police to target Hopley.
Kienan vanished from an upscale neighbourhood with manicured lawns, not far from a local golf course.
The family's two-storey home was surrounded by yellow police tape, with children's toys visible in the backyard.
In addition to the Amber Alert, police were continuing a ground search in town and the surrounding woods of the Elk Valley, which lies in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains near the Alberta-B.C. boundary.