NEWS
01/21/2019 19:35 EST | Updated 01/21/2019 22:29 EST

B.C. Man Henry Thomas Arrested In Snake Poison Death Of Toddler

"This is a very tragic incident that resulted in a complex, unique investigation."

Venessa Gonzales/CP
Aleka Esa-Bella Scheyk Gonzales, 2, is seen in this undated handout photo.

VANCOUVER — The mother of a little girl who North Vancouver police say died when she was poisoned by snake venom says she'll remember baby Aleka as happy, bubbly and someone who loved to play tricks.

Two-year-old Aleka Esa-Bella Scheyk Gonzales died on May 19, 2014, and RCMP say tests confirmed that snake venom was the cause of her death.

Henry Thomas, 51, has been arrested and charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life.

The girl's mother, Venessa Gonzales, said the man was a friend, but she refused to say more about him.

Case has gone on for more than four years

Police said in a news release on Monday that the girl in the care of the man on May 18, 2014, and returned her to her mother that day in North Vancouver. The next morning, the girl's mother reported that she was dead.

Gonzales said in an interview Monday that it has taken a long time for police to lay charges.

"Nothing was happening and (police) told me two years ago that they closed the file and that no charges would be laid.''

Instead, she said police came to her home recently to tell her he was being charged.

"It's been a really four and a half, almost five years now.''

Gonzales caught off-guard by renewed attention

Aleka's online obituary said she would be remembered for her silliness and joy in having fun with all.

"I called her my little blackbird, because that's what Aleka means,'' Gonzales said.

"She had the most bubbly personality, she was always so happy. She liked to joke around, she would pretend she'd be grumpy and then she'd laugh when she tricked you. ... She was so smart for her age.''

The photo used in the obituary shows the little girl in pigtails, her lips pooched for a kiss.

"She was looking for kisses in that picture. That was her birthday,'' her mother said.

Gonzales said Aleka loved to make faces, her favourite face was the surprised look.

She had to put all the photos of her daughter away because of the pain they cause her, she said, adding she wasn't prepared for the attention that the announcement of charges has generated.

She liked to joke around, she would pretend she'd be grumpy and then she'd laugh when she tricked you. ... She was so smart for her age.Venessa Gonzales

RCMP said an in-depth investigation unfolded after the girl's death, and in July 2015 officers searched the man's home where snakes and related equipment were seized.

Police said further DNA work was done in the following years and tests confirmed that snake venom was the cause of the two-year-old's death. Thomas was arrested last week.

"This is a very tragic incident that resulted in a complex, unique investigation by police and support agencies,'' said North Vancouver Supt. Chris Kennedy. "Our condolences are extended to the family and community of the deceased child.''

Police said because the matter was now before the courts, they won't be providing more details.

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