The mother of a Toronto homicide victim says she wants the people who murdered her son to look her in the eye and say they are sorry.

"It won't help, but I have to know that they're sorry," Ellen Skinner told CTV Toronto on Tuesday. "And then I want them to go home and tell their mothers that they did this."

Her 27-year-old son Chris died in a Toronto hospital after getting beaten in an altercation and then being driven over by the occupants of a black SUV.

"It will tear our family apart, but we're strong people and we'll pull through it," said Warren Skinner, Chris's father, at the family home near Uxbridge.

A friend of the murder victim said he's troubled that Toronto police don't seem to be considering the possibility that Chris Skinner was attacked because of his sexual orientation.

"It was unfathomable that it happened the way it did," Robert Moorhouse told Tuesday, adding that one of the Toronto Police Service homicide detectives has said it is pure speculation to think Skinner's sexual orientation played a role.

Not much is known about the incident, which occurred at 3 a.m. Sunday near the intersection of Victoria and Adelaide Streets in the eastern part of the downtown core. Skinner had been out celebrating his sister Taryn's birthday before saying his goodbyes for the evening.

Skinner became involved in a confrontation with at least two people in a black SUV. They beat him, left him lying on the ground -- and then drove over him. Skinner died in hospital. The SUV roared eastward on Adelaide.

Moorhouse said Skinner was a good-looking guy with a flamboyant sense of style.

"He has no history of violence. I've known him six or seven years, and I've never known him to pick a fight," he said.

Ellen added: "He could see past minor annoyances. He could see into the goodness of peoples' souls."

When people have tossed homophobic remarks at Skinner, "usually that just rolls off his back," he said, but added: "Usually when those sorts of things happened, there were other people around. There is safety in numbers."

If there were some verbal taunt directed towards him, Chris may have responded in kind, Moorhouse said.

"What has caused me sleepless nights is just trying to visualize what happened at the end," he said.

Fights happen, but "the fact is they actually left him on the street and then drove over him," he said. "To actually get into an SUV and deliberately run somebody open, to extinguish their life, that has no justification."

Studying the scene

Police have said they are studying video tape from cameras stretching westward to the Entertainment District and eastward to Church Street to see if they can identify the suspects or their vehicle.

They may have one grainy image of the vehicle.

Det. Stacey Gallant appealed for the driver and passengers to come forward. "If you're not the driver, you should be calling me right away and telling me you're not the driver," he said. "This happened, but it wasn't your intention. Come in, and we'll discuss it and figure out what your jeopardy is."

He also asked witnesses to step forward.

Moorhouse thinks they should take the homophobia angle seriously as a possibility.

"A gay man is dead at 3 in the morning downtown, and the nature of the death suggests it was more than just guys blowing off steam after the bar," he said.

"Either they know more than they are saying and they are just trying to dampen down speculation, or they are just being wilfully blind to the fact that gays and lesbians suffer violence on our downtown streets on a regular basis," he said.

Moorhouse said he was gay-bashed by a group of squeegee kids at Yonge and College Streets in 1997. "I was on my own as well, and if I didn't have the presence of mind to run into a Mr. Sub ... the outcome could have been the same (as with Skinner)," he said.

Skinner had taken his Law School Admission Test, hoping to eventually take over his father's law practice in his home town of Uxbridge. He had plans to marry next year.

Instead, Toronto's 43rd homicide victim of 2009 will be buried on Thursday. The service will be held at 1 p.m. at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Leaskdale, about 10 kilometres north of Uxbridge.

People with information about Skinner's murder are asked to contact Det. Stacey Gallant at 416-808-7410 or Det. Doug Dunstan at 416-808-7406, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at, or text TOR and a message to CRIMES (274637).

With a report from CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney