On the morning of August 17, 2005, Alicia Ross, a Hewlett Packard employee, mysteriously disappeared. Her boyfriend, Sean Hine, visited her house after she failed to answer a call on her cell phone for the second consecutive time (he had reportedly tried to contact her just after midnight, and again at around 10:00 AM on the 17th). Nobody answered the door, even though Ross' car was still in the driveway. Hine reported her disappearance to the police. He then contacted the family, and Ross' parents rushed home. Ross' mother, Sharon Fortis, later wrote:
Sean called 911 to report Alicia missing. He'd tried to reach her the night before when he got home — no response from her cell phone. No response again in the morning. She hadn't shown up for work. He then contacted my husband and I, and we rushed home to find the street covered with York Region Police cars, and the house filled with police officers — all looking for Alicia. In Alicia's room were her cell phone, her purse, her cigarettes, her keys. Her bed had not been slept in. Her laundry lay folded, ready to be put away. Her ring was by the bathroom sink — she'd washed for bed. Her car was in the driveway — she'd never gone to work. The backyard was strewn with Alicia's shoes, a glass, a cigarette, and the back yard gate had been left open. A sickness fell over us.
The fact that none of Ross' important belongings were missing led police to suspect that something may have happened to Ross, although they did not immediately deem the case "foul play". Initially, her current boyfriend and ex-boyfriend were questioned, although neither were reported to be suspects in the missing persons case. Hine had last seen Ross at 12:00 midnight the night before, and her family last saw her at 11:00 PM on August 16.
By August 19, a police crew and 60 volunteers had been scouring nearby ravines around Ross' Markham, Ontario home. By August 20, nearly 400 volunteers and over 60 police officers were participating in the search for Ross. Police had to turn down volunteers and requested only 100 volunteers per day to help them in their efforts. The search continued for several days, and was reported on the American TV show America's Most Wanted.
On August 22, Ross' boyfriend Sean Hine was arrested for drunk driving just hours after the police reported that they had shifted their focus from a missing person case to a possible case of foul play. The search was scaled down while Hine came under increased interrogation and was "feeling the heat" from the police investigation. On the 25th of August, Hine's neighborhood was canvassed; although he was "not a suspect", neighbors were asked whether they had seen Hine taking out trash on August 17, or anything suspicious.
On August 29, the National Post reported that Ross' boyfriend Sean Hine had stopped cooperating with investigators and refused to take a polygraph test. However, in private phone calls with Ross' mother Sharon Fortis, he had "told her how much he misses her daughter and asks how she is coping." News began to surface that Hine considered himself "pretty much the prime suspect" of the investigation, and of his somewhat unusual decision to report her missing after she failed to answer two phone calls.
Media attention to the case began to wane in late August due to the lack of new leads and the ongoing devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the southern United States. On September 2, 2005, the York Regional Police dismantled their campaign post in Thornhill, Ontario, because students were returning to the school they had been using as their command centre.
The case lay dormant for over a week, until Jennifer Teague, an 18-year-old woman in Barrhaven, Ontario was reported missing, and Ross' mother Sharon Fortis once again became the subject of stories about how she and the family were coping and looking for closure in Alicia's disappearance.
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