Toronto Star

Boyfriend unwelcome at funeral

Alicia’s family says he declined to help them ‘We owe (Hine) nothing but our . . . disappoint­ment’


The grief of Alicia Ross’s family at last week’s discovery of their daughter’s remains is made worse by their anger with her boyfriend, who they claim declined to help them when they needed him most. The accusation­s were made yesterday by Alicia’s griefstric­ken parents, Sharon and Julius Fortis, after a recent spate of media interviews by Sean Hine, 29.

In them, he commented negatively about a former boyfriend of Alicia’s and said Julius Fortis apologized to him last week after a next- door neighbour was charged with second-degree murder in her death. Hine is no longer welcome at the family home, said the family, and will not be invited to the funeral to bury their daughter and sister. Hine could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Yesterday, in an email to the Toronto Star

entitled “ our beloved Alicia,” the Fortis-Ross family said that, sometime after Alicia’s disappeara­nce from her Thornhill home in Markham, her mother spoke with Hine on the telephone, “ begging him to go to the police, to help our family, to help find Alicia. He hung up on her,” the email said.

“ She then met with him in a park and when she said we needed his help his reply was, ‘ She’s the strongest girl I know. I just know she’ll find her way home.’ ”

Instead, last week, York Regional Police announced that human remains found at two sites in the Kawartha Lakes district north of Toronto belonged to Alicia. They were located by police after Daniel Sylvester, 31, surrendere­d himself early Tuesday, accompanie­d by his lawyer, David Hobson. He appeared in court last week charged with second- degree murder and was remanded until late October. On the telephone with the Star yesterday, Sharon Fortis alternated between anger at Hine and deep anguish over the loss of Alicia, 25.

“ I was so full of hope that day you came to our home,” she said, about Saturday, Aug. 27, when she welcomed a Star reporter and photograph­er into her home at Bronte Rd. to talk about her daughter and lay out photograph­s of her life.

“ I thought we would get her back,” she said.

That day, her husband said he always thought that when he appeared in the newspaper, it would be because he’d won $ 10 million. “ Now all I want is for Alicia to come home,” said Julius Fortis. “ She is my cheque for $ 10 million — and much more.”

Sylvester lived with his mother, Olga, right next door. Hine was the last person to see Alicia alive around midnight on Aug. 16. When he couldn’t contact her later, and again the next morning, he called 911, instead of the family — a fact that Sharon Fortis made clear baffled them.

Last week, Hine said Julius Fortis apologized after Sylvester’s arrest. Earlier, he’d said he felt like “ a suspect” after police interviewe­d him after he reported Alicia missing, though police called him a “ person of interest.” Hine told the Star that he felt he was going to need therapy after being questioned by police. But yesterday’s email from the family said: “ Many people, including ‘ persons of interest’ were interviewe­d by police over and over again. No one considered it being bugged or bothered . . . many people considered it an honour to be interviewe­d, if it meant helping our family find Alicia.” The email says: “ Alicia’s stepfather never ‘ apologized’ to Sean Hine. We owe him nothing but our continued disappoint­ment.”

It adds: “ As far as our family is concerned, we don’t owe Sean Hine an apology,’ rather we are disappoint­ed that he is, after the fact, now making himself so available for comment — comments which are aggravatin­g our already unbearable situation.” The missive comes from the entire Ross- Fortis clan, which consists of the parents who merged two clans of a combined six children when they married 14 years ago. Julius Fortis is stepfather to Alicia. The email disputes the claim by Hine, who’d been dating Alicia for seven weeks, that she had serious problems with her former boyfriend, Dave Shekhter. The family describes the comments, which were widely printed, as “disgusting” and “ untrue,” adding that they “ aggravated us to a point we thought we’d passed.”

Last week, Shekhter was photograph­ed in a giant bear hug with Alicia’s brother, Shawn, 27, at the family’s front door.

“Alicia and her former boyfriend spoke every day, and met for dinner a few times, keeping up their friendship . . . ( Shekhter) was, and continues to be, a valued member of our extended family, and has accepted our request that he be one of the six to carry our beloved Alicia to her grave.” The family has not yet decided on the date for Alicia’s funeral and, according to Sharon Fortis, is searching for a site large enough to accommodat­e the many people who wish to attend.

“ I can’t bear to think of people having to stand outside,” she said yesterday. She added that she has been touched by people who have sent cards and flowers or stood near her house in silent tribute.

“ We thank the York Regional Police Department for their never-ending search efforts, and ongoing investigat­ion,” says the email, which also thanks supporters and the media.

Alicia’s remains are being examined at the Office of the Chief Coroner on Grenville St., and it is expected to take some time before they can be released to the family.

Sharon Fortis said yesterday she had thought the funeral could be at the beginning of October but changed her mind since the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah, begins on Oct. 4 and would allow only a brief time for the family to mourn.

“ We want to sit Shiva for Alicia for a week,’ she said, adding that the funeral will likely be around Oct. 7.

Although details remain to be worked out, Sharon Fortis said the family plans to set up a memorial fund to help send children on canoe trips to Algonquin Provincial Park, which Alicia dearly loved.

 ?? DALE BRAZAO/TORONTO STAR RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR ?? The Fortis-Ross family is angry with Sean Hine, 29, for saying that Julius Fortis, Alicia’s stepfather, apologized to him. The family also disputes his negative comments about Alicia’s former boyfriend. Next-door neighbour Daniel Sylvester, 31, has...
DALE BRAZAO/TORONTO STAR RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR The Fortis-Ross family is angry with Sean Hine, 29, for saying that Julius Fortis, Alicia’s stepfather, apologized to him. The family also disputes his negative comments about Alicia’s former boyfriend. Next-door neighbour Daniel Sylvester, 31, has...

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