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a passionate repentance

Monday, March 29, 2004 MISSISSAUGA - Cecilia Zhang, the…

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may God stand
Monday, March 29, 2004

MISSISSAUGA - Cecilia Zhang, the nine-year-old Toronto
girl who was stolen from her bed last October, has
been found dead, her skeletal remains discovered by a
hiker in a wooded ravine in Mississauga.

"Our greatest fears have come true. The remains found
in Mississauga are those of Cecilia Zhang," said
Detective Sergeant Gerry Cashman, who led the Toronto
Police investigation into the abduction.

A planned flying squad of forensic experts --
established by police when Cecilia went missing, ready
to swoop in to search for microscopic clues should she
be found dead -- was largely not needed as the body
was in such poor condition officials had to turn to
dental records to confirm identity.

It is likely Cecilia was killed and left in the ravine
shortly after she was abducted, perhaps even the same
day, a source close to the investigation told the
National Post.

Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino visited the Zhang
home last night. "The fact that we weren't able to
return Cecilia to her family is weighing heavily on
all of us," the chief said.

Investigators are looking carefully at the theory
Cecilia's abductors ended their involvement with the
girl shortly after making two failed attempts to
contact the family by telephone on the morning of her

The Post reported in January that Cecilia's mother,
Wen (Sherry) Xu, received mysterious calls to her
cellphone the morning Cecilia was taken. At 6:58 a.m.
she received a call from a Tim Hortons parking lot 36
kilometres west of the Zhang home. At 7:48 a.m., a
second call was made from a pay phone at Maple Lodge
Farms on Winston Churchill Boulevard near Steeles
Avenue, 20 kilometres farther west.

At 7:48 a.m., a second call was made from a pay phone
at Maple Lodge Farms on Winston Churchill Boulevard
near Steeles Avenue, 20 kilometres farther west. In
both cases, there was no answer to Mrs. Zhang's
inquiries as to who was calling.

She did not yet know her daughter was missing.

The thicket in the valley of the Credit River where
Cecilia's body was found Saturday afternoon is about
10 kilometres south of the second pay phone. The
remains were found by a hiker about 1:45 p.m. near
Eglinton Avenue and Mississauga Road, about 25 metres
from the edge of the parking lot of the Church of the
Croatian Martyrs. The area is well travelled, though
not in winter. It is known for its wildlife, including
coyotes, neighbours said.

Denis Gregoire, 47, who lives in the house closest to
the stand of trees and scrub where the remains were
found, said the area is often used as a dumping ground
for items garbage collectors will not accept.

He was shocked to learn the body of a child had been
discarded there. "It's unnerving," he said. "We're
very upset about it, that's for sure."

Toronto and Peel Regional police will jointly
investigate the slaying but it fell to Toronto
detectives, who had worked closely with the Zhangs in
the five months since Cecilia went missing, to break
the news to her family.

Toronto police had said finding Cecilia was a top
priority for the force, and a reward for information
leading to her return once reached $165,000.

David Miller, Toronto's Mayor, expressed dismay and
sadness yesterday. "There are simply no words that can
convey how deeply sorry I am for the loss of Cecilia.
I feel the pain of this tragedy both as a parent and
as a resident of Toronto. The hearts of everyone in
this city are with Cecilia's family tonight," he said.

Many people out for a Sunday walk ended up at the
Croatian church to catch a glimpse of the crime scene.

"When she went missing, we prayed for her every
night," said Dawn Anselm, who came with her three
young children. "I was hoping for her 10th birthday
she would come home."

Cecilia would have celebrated the birthday tomorrow.

Jack Jia, a close family friend, said the Zhangs had
planned a gathering to show that the search for their
child continued.

"Now the reality has turned us upside down," Mr. Jia
said. "We know Cecilia is no longer with us anymore.

"There are lots of things on my mind right now," he
said. "Anger, frustrated, upset, I don't know. I'm
trying to think of what the parents are feeling now,
because I'm a parent."

Ms. Anselm, an area resident, fought back tears as she
considered the family's plight.

"I was hoping it was going to be another Elizabeth
Smart case, where they let her go back to where she
belongs," she said, referring to the 14-year-old Salt
Lake City girl who was reunited with her parents nine
months after being abducted from her home in
circumstances similar to the Zhang case.

"This is not the cycle of life where you have to bury
the children."

It was not long after Saturday's discovery of the body
that officers with Peel police notified the
neighbouring Toronto force they might have found
Cecilia's body, a suspicion based largely on the size
of the bones, a source familiar with the investigation
told the Post.

Investigators had hoped Cecilia would be found alive
but planned for the possibility she would be found
dead, the source said. The next best thing would be to
make sure her killer or killers did not get far.

"The hope was, like with Holly Jones, that if we can't
find her alive then we would at least find her as soon
as possible and be able to glean as much evidence as
we can."

Portions of the dismembered body of Holly Jones were
found in Lake Ontario last May within days of her
slaying. An arrest was made five weeks later.

To maximize the chances of an arrest in the Zhang
case, a team of pathologists, biologists and other
forensic specialists was assembled early in the
investigation and was on call around the clock,
prepared to rush to any scene to help secure whatever
evidence was available.

The options for that now are limited.

It is unlikely forensic evidence will be easily
available to indicate whether she was sexually
assaulted or what exactly happened to her after her
abduction. There was no obvious cause of death and no
apparent sign of trauma.

"The area immediately around Cecilia was examined in
detail late last evening before her body was removed
from the scene. We continue to search the area and a
perimeter around that scene for evidence," said Acting
Inspector Rick De Facendis of Peel police's homicide

"We have undergone an exhaustive search of this area
and we will be continuing to search this area for
evidence. But clearly, because it is a wooded area
there are some challenges involved in that. We are
working our way through those challenges," he said.

Cecilia, whose Chinese name was Dong-Yue Zhang, was
last seen by her parents when she went to bed on
Sunday, Oct. 19, in her second-floor bedroom in the
family's Whitehorn Crescent home, near Finch Avenue
and Highway 404 in North York.

The gifted Grade 4 pupil at Seneca Hill Public School
was discovered missing about 8:30 a.m. when her
parents went to rouse her for school and found her bed
empty. A window screen leading into the family kitchen
was found wrenched open at the rear of the house.

From the start, police treated the case as a possible
abduction and moved quickly to quell fears that it
could be a random act by a sexual predator.


We are devastated and in anguish to know that our
angel daughter Cecilia has departed this life. We
commend her soul to God in heaven where we know she
now resides. She was the best of daughters and brought
us joy throughout her short life. We have missed her
every hour, every moment since she was cruelly taken
from us. We hope she did not suffer and hope she knows
how much of a treasure she was to us in her
all-too-short life. We thank everyone who has prayed
for her, and for us, and everyone who has given our
family a kind thought in those hard months since
Cecilia disappeared. We hope that those who took
Cecilia from us will soon be captured and be judged as
they deserve. We thank Toronto police for their
unceasing efforts on Cecilia's behalf and we ask all
of you to treasure your children every single day.
Thank you.

I am so sad. I wanted her to be okay, to come home, like Elizabeth Smart. I'm surprised by how MUCH I wanted her to come home. I hope that where she is now she is happy and well, and waiting with God for her parents to come for her.

My bird has decided to come and sit on my head and sing to me. If he could sing the effect would be more artistic. But he's trying. And he is a pretty good bird.
  • I guess in a way she did come home for her birthday :( :( :(
  • I guess in a way, she did come home for her birthday :( :( :(
  • predators

    These stories always tear me apart. We've had our share of these too.
    One of the small comforts is that these parents have closure. Some don't even have that, and must live the rest of their lives hoping their child will return.
    I personally believe these predators deserve the death penalty. Either that or a living death in a jail with 'real men', without protection or special isolation.
    • Re: predators

      I agree. Let these bastards know the terror and the pain their victims went through. Let them get a never-ending dose of their own bitter, sick medicine.

      I, too, kept hoping that she would be found alive, that she would come home. She was such a beautiful girl...my heart goes out to her family and friends.
  • predators

    Grrr! Windows swallowed my last post.
    These stories always tear me apart. We have our share of these gutless, cold people too.
    The one small comfort these parents have is closure. Some don't even have that and must live the rest of their lives hoping their child will return.
  • echo, echo e......

    Hmmm, ships that pass in the night?...
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