Ottawa parents suing police who ruled their son's death a suicide
On December 9th, 2001, John and Gloria Connelly of Ottawa received the worst news a parent can hear.
Their child was dead.
Toronto Police say 22-year-old John Kevin Connelly ran off the roof of his apartment building, plunging 10 stories to his death.
The third-year University of Toronto Pharmacy student had recently broken off an engagement with his fiancée. There was a note. Investigators ruled it a suicide.
For the Connelly’s, heartbreak quickly gave way to suspicion. They say their son was a well-adjusted, successful student. They didn’t believe he could have taken his own life.
Fifteen years later, they still don’t.
Based in part on new evidence, and in part on long-standing frustration, the Connellys have launched a $12.5 million lawsuit against the Toronto Police Service. They allege the police “destroyed, replaced, ignored and concealed death scene forensic evidence,” says Dr. John Connelly, an Ottawa dental surgeon.
That evidence includes the distance of their son’s body from the building. Police said it was 35 feet, proving he took a running jump. The Connellys say they now know it was just half that distance, something the police confirmed in meetings to discuss the case last year. "In those meetings the police gave us some new evidence and it became really clear that police had hindered and obstructed the investigation," says Dr. Connelly.
Dr. Connelly also says the initial photographs of the access hatch to the roof showed it was locked shut. He alleges those photographs disappeared and were replaced with new ones showing the hatch open.
The Connellys point to more questionable signs, from bruises on their son that can’t be explained by the fall, to witness reports of suspicious men trying to enter his apartment, to a third-party expert suggesting his “suicide note” may have been partially forged.
They have documented their case and the pursuit of it on the website aquestionoftrust.com.
The Connellys say they are doggedly pursuing the case not for the sake of their son, but for the importance of holding the police accountable. They say the public should be able to trust that investigators are doing everything possible to determine the truth. They see the suit as a way to force the Toronto Police to re-open their son’s case.
The Toronto Police Service has yet to formally respond to the family’s Statement of Claim.