For five tortuous months, Raymond Zhang and his wife, Sherry Xu, held tightly to the slim chance their daughter Cecilia would return home. On the evening of March 27, two days before what would have been her 10th birthday, they lost that grip. A hiker near a university campus in Mississauga, Ont., found skeletal remains—Cecilia’s—in a wooded area 45 km west of the family’s Toronto home. The Zhangs were shattered and an entire city seemed to go into mourning.
The grisly discovery closed out a long emotional search for the precocious Grade 4 student. Her abduction—from her home in the middle of the night on Oct. 20, with eight adults sleeping in other rooms—perplexed police. Entrance was presumably gained through a small window a few metres above the ground; experts contended the kidnapper must have had some intimate knowledge of the family. The fact that about 20 people, mostly visa students from China, have rented rooms in the Zhang home in recent years figured prominently in the investigation. And police conceded last week that not all former tenants have been found. “If they’re not going to track some of the people down, I’m assuming it’s because they already have a suspect in mind,” said Pat Brown, a Minneapolis-based profiler who has been following the case. The other possibility, of course, is that police were simply wrong.
Even without a ransom note, Toronto police—who passed the reins to Peel Police after the case became a homicide—had seemed confident Cecilia was the victim of an abduc-
tion for money. They even appeared to back away from the usual high-intensity search early on in the hope that the kidnappers might want to make a deal. A ransom of $200,000 was raised, but no serious offer emerged. And although the forensic details are closely guarded, it appears Cecilia died months ago while her parents, police and an entire community lived on nothing but false hope.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.