She called him a loser.
That’s what may have sparked the murder of Alicia Ross. It was the description Daniel Sylvester gave police of what led to the brutal slaying of his next door neighbour. The 25-year-old disappeared from her Markham home on a hot August night in 2005. Her disappearance sparked one of the biggest searches in Ontario history, but it wasn’t until the 33-year-old suspect walked into police headquarters a month later that cops finally found her body and the man responsible for her death.
The jury at his murder trial listened transfixed on Thursday as a videotape of police questioning the self-confessed killer was played in the courtroom. Sylvester is shown telling his interrogators that the two met in a laneway adjoining their houses around 1:30 in the morning and that Ross confronted him in the darkness and wanted to know what he was doing there.
He claims she called him a loser and he lost his temper, and the two wound up scuffling outside. Sylvester overpowered his neighbour, pinning her to the ground, putting his knee on her chest and banging her head on the pavement several times. By the time he regained his composure, she was dead.
At several points in the tape, he physically re-enacted the crime for cops and even gets emotional. But for the most part his affect remains the same as it has been in the courtroom – flat and without any apparent feelings about his actions. “I knew she wasn’t breathing at this point,” he told the detectives. “I was pretty sure she was dead at that point. I was panicking and I didn’t know what to do.” What he did was line his car trunk with cardboard and then transport Ross’ body up north to Manila, Ont. He went back several weeks later and moved it to Coboconk.
The Markham man has admitted killing Ross but his attempt to plead guilty to manslaughter was rejected. He’s facing second degree murder charges instead, as the central issue of his intent remains the main focus of the case. But it’s clear he was aware of what he was doing. “Do you understand the events you’re under arrest for?” one officer asks him on the tape. His answer comes in a chilling single word. “M urder,” he replies.
Sylvester’s mental state may also play a large part in determining his ultimate fate. It’s been revealed he wasn’t the quiet boy next door he appeared to be. He had a history of depression and was on medication at one time, but stopped taking his pills at least three years before the murder. He also experienced problems in high school because of social anxiety – and dropped out without ever graduating.