The death of Tess Richey was initially deemed a result of misadventure. Now it’s being called a homicide.
The Toronto Police Service says it will be looking into how officers handled the initial stages of the investigation by calling in the Professional Standards Unit.
“We have some concerns” said Mark Pugash, Director of Communications for Toronto Police Service. “Our Professional Standards Unit is looking at the initial stages of the investigation, we are looking into that to see what we find and if anything else needs to go any further.”
Police initially said that foul play was not suspected in Richey’s death. But an autopsy later confirmed that she died from compression to the neck and homicide has since taken over the case.
“Strangulation is a narrow term and neck compression is a broad term,” Cheryl Mahyr of the Office of the Chief Coroner and Ontario Forensic Pathology Service explained. “For instance, strangulation implies compression by hands or a ligature. Neck compression implies broader possibilities such as a choke hold using an arm.”
Richey, 22, was reported missing on November 25, the eve of her 23rd birthday, around 3 a.m. after she disappeared from the area of Church and Wellesley streets.
Her body was found outside an abandoned building at Church and Dundonald streets around 3 p.m. last Wednesday, just doors away from where she went missing. She was discovered by her mother who flew in from North Bay to help with the search and a friend.
“Two women outside were screaming that there was a body in the alleyway” said William Ayers, the owner of Zen Dog Services, located next door to the building where Richey was found. “We don’t know when she was there, we don’t check back there and the next door neighbour is doing renovations and they weren’t here last week,” he said.
Considering several people have gone missing from the area in recent months, community members have decided to take matters into their own hands.
“One of the issues is that police aren’t taking us seriously” Said Nicki Ward, Director of the Church-Wellesley Neighbourhood Association. “We’re going to look at creating neighbourhood watches and a safe walk program”. She also wants to see more lights in the area and more police presence, among other things.
This past summer, Toronto police created a task force to address the growing number of missing persons cases in the area.
Pugash acknowledged that the local community is on edge, but said so far police haven’t been able to draw any connection between Tess’ murder, or a disturbing string of missing persons cases.
“We have a task force … that is looking at several missing people, they have no evidence … that shows any connection between any of those cases …”
In the meantime police are canvassing the area where Richey’s body was found and trying to obtain surveillance video footage from the area.
“We have some information that leads us to believe that Tess with a man in the early hours of Saturday Nov. 25, and we are trying to develop that further,” Pugash said.
The person of interest is described as white, approximately five-foot-six to five-foot-seven, with a slim build and light coloured short hair.
Anyone with information is asked to call police or Crime Stoppers.