Donations help fund Toronto funeral service for Alloura Wells
Rachael D'Amore, CTV News Toronto
Published Tuesday, March 20, 2018 4:39PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 20, 2018 6:37PM EDT
Friends and family of Alloura Wells gathered in Toronto on Tuesday to mourn and remember her life, more than seven months after her body was found in a Rosedale ravine.
The 27-year-old transgendered woman vanished from the downtown area sometime in July 2017. Her body was found on Aug. 5 lying next to a tent in a ravine near Rosedale Valley Road but it took months for police to positively identify her because she was so badly decomposed.
She had been reported missing by her family in November.
Police previously said they have no reason to suspect foul play in her death, though many in the LGBTQ community have contested that. At some point, police were looking to speak with Wells’ boyfriend, Augustinus Balesdent, who was not considered to be a suspect but was believed to be last person to see her alive.
An online fundraising effort made to cover the costs of a cremation or burial for Wells exceeded its $100,000 goal by $131 since it was created on Feb. 27.
The City of Toronto has also offered to cover those costs and those associated with booking the funeral home.
Monica Forrester, who created the GoFundMe, wrote on the webpage that part of the money raised will be used to make it possible for some of Wells’ family members to travel and stay in the city for her funeral.
The remaining money raised will go towards an urn, flowers and memorial, as well as a reception after the funeral service.
Forrester said the family “has no means” to organize a memorial or burial for Wells but that the community still wanted to have one to help “bring closure.”
At the funeral on Tuesday, Forrester remembered Wells for “her sense of style, her laugh” and her singing voice.
Existing funds will be donated to the Trans Support Group of Trans Advisory, “a monthly support group for trans-identified people that are experiencing homelessness, trauma and systemic issues” in Toronto, the GoFundMe page reads.
Wells’ death came amid growing anxieties about the possibility of a serial killer lurking in Toronto’s Gay Village – fears that were later made a reality with the arrest of a 66-year-old landscaper in connection with the deaths of two, but later six, missing men.
While police have stated that Wells’ death is unrelated to that particular case, her disappearance, along with that of 22-year-old Tess Richey, stirred criticism about how police handle missing persons cases.
Wells’ own father, who reported her missing to police on Nov. 6, previously claimed that officers brushed off her disappearance and suggested that it wasn’t unusual because she was homeless at the time.
“There are still a lot of outstanding questions about how the disappearance was handled, how her death was handled,” LGBTQ community advocate Nicki Ward told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday. “That continues to leave an open wound in the community that needs to be healed.”
Ward says she believes the community feels let down by Toronto police.
“Although the deaths are different, there’s a common thread – there’s a lack of tender loving care for our community,” she said.
Forrester expressed similar sentiments.
“There’s a disconnect with the community that really needs to be mended," she said. "We need to sit down and put some concrete things in place when it comes to people who go missing or are found dead in the community.”
Earlier this month, following continued criticism over the handling of the Bruce McArthur serial homicide case, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders laid out a series of commitments he says the force will take to improve their future investigations.
Saunders said that police are almost finished setting up a dedicated missing persons unit – a first for the service – and will conduct professional standards review of Wells’ and Richey’s cases.
Toronto Mayor John Tory is expected to formally call for an external review into the McArthur case and the way the Toronto Police Service handles missing persons reports at this Thursday’s police services board meeting.
Wells’ funeral was held at the Rosar Morrison Funeral Home on Sherbourne and Wellesley streets.