Church Wellesley Village on edge after most recent missing person found dead
The death of Tess Richey has shaken the community. But police say there's no known connection to other missing persons cases in the area.
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The death of 22-year-old Tess Richey, which police have deemed a homicide, has left the Church and Wellesley community on edge in light of a string of missing persons cases in the area.
Richey was reported missing on Nov. 25. Her body was found Wednesday afternoon outside of a building under construction at Church Street and Dundonald Street. The Professional Standards Unit is investigating, said Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash.
Dani Rose, who lives nearby on Isabella Street, said she's been video chatting with people as they walk home nearby.
"People are terrified to even walk and do groceries right now," she said, adding she'd like to see more police presence.
"I've taken back all of the Christmas presents I've been getting for people and I've been getting them mace now instead."
Rose took it upon herself to make a map of missing people in the area, which is home to many LGBTQ people. The map dates back to three men who went missing from the Village between 2010 and 2012. She included Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman, who went missing last spring and summer and still haven't been found, and Alloura Wells, whose body was found in the Rosedale Ravine in August.
Pugash said police are looking at all the cases very closely but have "no evidence to suggest any connection."
"We have a task force that's looking into this and has been looking into it for some time. We've worked closely with the community. We've devoted considerable resources to it because it is an important investigation," he said.
He declined to get into detail about why the Professional Standards Unit is investigating Richey's case but said it had to do with "concerns" around the "first part of the case when it was a missing persons case."
Under Ontario's Police Services Act, the unit is obligated to investigate complaints of misconduct.
Police believe Richey was in the presence of a man shortly before she died, alone somewhere on Church St. between or around Wellesley St. and Dundonald St. from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.
The man is described as white and somewhere between 5-foot-7 and 6 feet tall, with a slim build and light-coloured short hair. Anyone with information can contact homicide investigators at 416-808-7400.
The community also criticized the police for how they handled the case of Alloura Wells, who was known to stay in the area, saying her disappearance wasn't being taken seriously because she was transgender and had been homeless.
She was missing since July, and though a body was found in August, a DNA match was not made until last week.
Franny McCabe-Bennett, who used to work in the Village, said she contacted the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association to suggest a safe-walk-home program using volunteers, similar to programs that exist on many university campuses.
McCabe-Bennett said she's been hearing from a lot of people "that they're freaked out."
"I don't know how much of it is people watching Mindhunter," she said, referencing a new Netflix series about serial killers. "But I can say that there's a very fraught relationship between the queer community, especially trans people, especially queer people of colour, and the police. The police really need to be doing a lot more to repair that relationship."
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