Ottawa family sues Toronto Police for $12.5 million over 'obstruction' in son's death investigation

An Ottawa family is suing the Toronto Police Service for $12.5 million, over allegations the police deliberately obstructed the investigation into the death of their 22-year-old son 15 years ago.

John Kevin Connelly died in December of 2001, after falling from his highrise apartment building in Toronto. He was a third-year university student at the time. Police had ruled it a suicide.

But his parents Dr. John Connelly and Gloria Connelly say the police have been stonewalling them for 15 years as they seek to have the case re-opened and investigated as a homicide. They say the story they were told, that John Jr. had run off the roof of his building after breaking up with his fiancée, was out of character for him.

Speaking on CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Evan Solomon, the Connellys say they have evidence that proves the police manipulated and destroyed evidence in the case.

“In 2015, the police finally met with us after 14 years of silence, and in those meetings, the Toronto Police gave us some evidence,” Dr. Connelly says. “And we realized, when got ahold of the evidence, that it was the Toronto Police Service that were obstructing and consistently hindering this investigation. We found out that they were destroying evidence, ignoring evidence, changing evidence, and replacing evidence. We have examples of all four of those.”

“Let’s start with destroyed,” Dr. Connelly tells Solomon. “The 911 tape disappeared. Ignored: two miserable-looking individuals, of possible Italian origin, were seen entering John’s apartment with a key. That information was kept completely secret. Changed: the distance where John was found from the building was doubled, from 17.6 feet to 35 feet, and replaced: the original photographs of the closed padlock hatch were replaced with new photographs of a wide-open hatch.”

Dr. Connelly also says there was evidence of a violent struggle in his son’s apartment.

Gloria Connelly tells Solomon this case is about accountability.

“This must never happen to another family,” she says. “No one can ever face this again. There has been a mountain of denial and defensiveness from the police in Toronto. I am so worried that all of us are now placed in a position, in terms of public safety, that we are no longer safe. The police are the custodians of evidence. I’m not. My husband John is not. They are the custodians of evidence and they’ve been changing it.”

The Connellys say they’ve met with 10 oversight bodies in Ontario, and only one of them challenged the police and suggested the case be re-opened as a homicide investigation, a request the Connellys say was ignored.

“What’s really important here is that we have now become the oversight body for Ontario,” Gloria Connelly says. “We have now become the people who are trying to keep us safe, and make the Toronto Police accountable for their actions.”

The Toronto Police Service has yet to formally respond to the lawsuit.