|James Shelswell displays a photo of his daughter Clare, taken in 2007. His ex-wife moved to B.C. with his two daughters and he'd seen Clare only five times over five years. The girl had her throat slashed Sunday. Her stepfather has been charged. (Darren Makowichuck, QMI Agency)
CALGARY - He barely knew his daughter Clare, having seen her only five times since the divorce.
James Shelswell said he was looking forward to Clare growing older, and the far-off day when he might finally bond with the child he surrendered when she was only four months old.
Instead, Shelswell will fly this week from Calgary to Abbotsford B.C., to attend Clare's funeral.
On Sunday, Clare was murdered, her throat slashed open after an apparent domestic dispute between her mom and step-dad over how to discipline the kids.
Peter Wilson, 29, is charged with killing his step daughter.
And now, all that's left for her biological dad is to say goodbye to the stranger who was once his baby girl.
"She didn't really know me -- I'd seen her maybe five time in five years," said Shelswell.
If his daughter dying in pain and terror at the hands of the man she knew as her dad wasn't devastating enough, Shelswell has been told he's not welcome at the funeral.
His ex-wife, Sarah Wilson, called Wednesday morning to discuss Clare's murder.
It didn't go well, and the old resentments resurfaced.
"I didn't have too much nice to say to her," said Shelswell.
"I asked if she was in the room when it happened and why she didn't protect Clare -- she said it happened in a different room, and I asked if my other daughter saw it. She said no."
His ex, said Shelswell, then made it clear he is not welcome at Clare's private funeral service.
"She said I shouldn't go to the funeral, and I have no rights to my kids," said Shelswell.
Taking a deep breath, Shelswell sounds like a man struggling to remain calm.
"Of course I'm going, I'll be there this weekend, even though she won't even tell me what time it's at," he said.
"I'll find out."
Shelswell's anger is palpable, and he is clearly a man who feels his daughter's cruel slaying is the culmination of years of injustice.
Clare Shelswell's life ended Sunday while on vacation with her family in Washington State.
U.S. cops say Peter Wilson, charged with first degree murder, has confessed to his step-daughter's killing.
A court affidavit states that Wilson told detectives, "as soon as he started to walk down the stairs to the kitchen with Clare he knew he was going to kill her."
In Mason County court on Monday, statements were read saying Sarah Wilson had admitted to arguing with the suspect over discipline earlier in the day, and her husband told her "he would take care of it."
The man, who the court heard has bipolar disorder, then walked away.
Soon after, Sarah Wilson heard a scream, and when she rushed to see what was wrong, she found Clare lying on her back in a pool of blood, holding her throat with her hands.
"My husband took a knife to her throat," Sarah told an operator, in a frantic 911 call.
"She's barely breathing, she's barely breathing."
Nothing could save the little girl.
On Wednesday night, residents of Hoodsport, Wash., planned a memorial for Clare.
Her funeral is expected to take place in Abbotsford this weekend.
In Calgary, Shelswell, who is re-married with two kids, is a man whose fury is mixed with remorse.
He laments that he didn't have enough money to fight back with a lawyer, back when his wife took their Calgary-born daughters away with her to B.C.
He says he settled into a pattern of paying child support, and looking forward to yearly visit with his girls -- the last, a happy trip to Vancouver, included the aquarium and McDonald's.
That was also the last time Shelswell saw the man now accused of taking Clare's life.
"I met him a couple times, like when I'd go to pick up the kids, and he seemed normal to me, no one mentioned he was on meds and was bipolar, or anything," said Shelswell.
"I had no idea."
Now, too late to save the daughter he never really knew, Shelswell hopes the justice system in Washington State, where the death penalty is practised, make her killer pay.
"He's got dual citizenship, so I hope they keep him down there and fry his ass," said Shelswell.