Jury selection has begun Monday in the trial of a Markham man accused of killing his next-door neighbour in a grisly case that shocked and devastated their quiet community.

Daniel Sylvester, 31, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Alicia Ross, 25, who went missing from her home on Aug. 17, 2005.

In a surprise development, Sylvester's lawyer said his client would be pleading not-guilty but was willing to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The judge asked the Crown if that would be acceptable and the response was no. As a result, the trial will go ahead.

Ross' disappearance became the largest missing persons case in Ontario in more than 20 years. Hundreds of family, friends and volunteers took part in the massive searches for the young woman.

Sylvester surrendered to police about five weeks after Ross' disappearance, on the advice of his lawyer.

Hours later, police located some of Ross' remains near a cottage in Coboconk, 40 kilometres north of Markham, while other body parts were found in a field near the town of Manilla, about 50 kilometres northeast of Markham.

Sean Hine, Ross' boyfriend, was among those who testified at a preliminary hearing last summer in a Newmarket courtroom. He was the last person to see Ross before the disappearance and was considered a person of interest before Sylvester's arrest.

Neighbours told the media they knew little about Sylvester. Some called him a loner, others said they had never seen him before.

The day after Sylvester's arrest, his family issued a statement saying they were saddened, devastated and "struggling to understand" the tragic situation.

About 400 prospective jurors arrived at the Newmarket courts on Monday. A jury of 12 is not likely to be selected until Tuesday.

The judge estimates the trial to last about eight weeks. Pretrial motions will take up the remainder of the court time this week.

The trial is not expected to begin until next week.

There were no family members from the Sylvester or Ross families present during jury selection on Monday.

With a report from CTV's John Musselman