"Wish you were here."
It was the 16th of August 2005. A Tuesday. Twenty five year old Alicia Ross was the happiest she had ever been. Alicia was adopted by Sharon Fortis and Marvin Ross as a baby and they adored her. She had big blue eyes and blonde hair. Sharon and Marvin later separated and began new relationships but they all remained close. Sharon lived in a house with her new husband Julius and Alicia lived in the basement of their home in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada. Alicia had her own separate entrance to the property and it felt very much like her own home.
Sharon and Alicia
That evening Alicia and Sharon went for a walk in Pomona Mills Park with the dogs. Alicia shared some exciting news with her mother. She was due to be promoted in work the next day at her sales job at Hewlett Packard and she couldn't wait to go into work to have the news confirmed. Alicia wasn't just doing well professionally, she also was happy with her personal life. She had been dating a man called Sean Hine for a month and things looked really promising.
After the walk in the park, Alicia met up with Sean. He called over to the basement. They played pool and spent time together in the basement. Sean left just before midnight. When Sean got home, he called Alicia to let her know he was home but there was no answer. That wasn't a cause for concern as it was late so Sean thought she may be asleep. The next morning , he called her again but there was still no answer and that's when Sean began to worry. He was even more concerned when he discovered Alicia didn't show up for work that morning and he reported her missing. Sean told police he had last seen Alicia by the side of the road at her mother's house. He told them she had walked him to his car that night after his visit and said goodbye. That was the last time he saw her.
Sean told Alicia's parents that she was missing. They had not heard from her either. Sharon was normally up late but that night she went to bed earlier than usual and hadn't heard anything.
The basement itself looked normal. Nothing seemed out of place. It looked as if Alicia was about to get into bed. The ring was in the basin indicating she had washed her face to prepare for bed. Laundry lay folded , ready to be put away. Alicia's keys, purse and phone were in her bedroom. Her bed had not been slept in and her car was in the driveway. The back yard told a different story though. The backyard was strewn with Alicia's shoes, a glass, a cigarette, and the back yard gate had been left open.
Police spoke to Sean. He was the last person who was known to have seen Alicia. Did they fight in the backyard? Did Alicia run off? But Sean insisted everything was fine when he left that night and he further insisted he left alone. Alicia was not with him. If that was true, where was she? What made her leave her home in the middle of the night?
York Regional Police believed that Alicia's disappearance was suspicious and one of the largest searches for a missing person in Ontario history took place. Sharon made televised appeals and gave interviews in the hope that she would get some answers relating to Alicia's disappearance. Police received hundreds of tip offs from the public but it was only one month later when they got a break in the case.
The man who lived next door to Alicia presented at the police station with a lawyer. He was ready to talk. Thirty one year old Daniel Sylvester lived in the house next to the Fortis house with his mother. The Fortis family barely knew them and in fact, Sharon only saw Daniel a few times over the years. Daniel was never once suspected to be involved in Alicia's disappearance. He hadn't even been considered.
Daniel told police that Alicia was dead. He said that he was responsible for her death but it was an accident.
Daniel told police that he met Alicia in a laneway adjoining their houses around 1.30 am. Alicia confronted him in the darkness and wanted to know what he was doing there in the laneway.
According to Daniel, he attacked Alicia because she provoked him by calling him a "loser".That made him "lose his temper". In his confession to the police Daniel acted out how he violently attacked Alicia. He beat her to death. He told police he removed her clothes from the waist down as her clothing was torn during the struggle. He did not want them to think she had been sexually assaulted.
Daniel told police he masturbated at the side of a country road to relieve tension after he hid Alicia's body in a wooded area. During the course of his police interviews and confession, Daniel insisted that he never sexually assaulted Alicia before, during or after he killed her.
Daniel led police to two locations northeast of Toronto where he had hidden Alicia's remains.
Even though Daniel confessed to police, there was still a Trial in the case as he wanted to plead guilty to the lessor charge of manslaughter and not second degree murder.
It was the Prosecution's case that Daniel got into an argument with Alicia. The Prosecutor believed Daniel slapped her when Alicia moved towards him. It was their case that Daniel pushed Alicia to the ground and pinned her down.
He drove his knees into her chest and began to bang her head on the ground several times. He only stopped beating her when she was dead. There were more than thirty fractures to her body. The attack took place on the pathway between her home and his. The Prosecution played the tape of Daniel's confession for the Jury.
The Jury also heard that after Daniel described how he attacked Alicia, he told police:
“I knew she wasn’t breathing at this point,I was pretty sure she was dead at that point. I was panicking and I didn’t know what to do.”
When Alicia was dead, he took her body to his garage where he cleaned the blood and took a shower and changed his clothes.
He took Alicia's body to Coboconk in the trunk of his car and dumped her body. He returned to check on her remains at least ten times over the course of a two week period.Daniel then moved her body three weeks after her death to a more secluded area, a forest area near his family cottage in Cobcocon.
At his Trial, the Jury heard that Daniel had fantasies about raping women. He told psychiatrists his impulses were a result anger and they were not sexual impulses. He disliked women as during his school years they had belittled him and called him a “loser.” He told one psychiatrist that he had experienced “horrible thoughts” of “jumping out of bushes and raping.”
Daniel had been treated for mental health issues since he was just nine years old. He stopped all treatment in 2001 and had very little interaction with anyone outside the home he shared with his mother.
The Jury knew that Daniel killed Alicia. He never disputed that and gave a full confession regarding how she died. What the Jury had to consider was Daniel's state of mind. Did he intend for her to die? Daniel insisted it was an accident and was the result of provocation.
The Jury did not believe Daniel. He was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for sixteen years.
Alicia had everything to live for. She had a family who loved her, a house she loved living in, a job she adored and a new romance. While Alicia was busy making plans for her bright future and creating new opportunities for herself, she had no idea that there was such a darkness so close to her. Daniel had problems and dark thoughts his whole life and for whatever reason he chose that night to invite himself and his dark thoughts into Alicia's life. She didn't know him and didn't know of the threat he posed. In the middle of the night, he entered her life and ended it in a matter of minutes. We will never fully know what went on in Daniel's mind and how long he had been watching Alicia for but what we do know is that he murdered an innocent young woman and had no regard for her life, her thoughts, her future and left behind a devastated family who just wish Alicia was still around to fill them with the joy she always did.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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