Family, friends of slain women voice grief at Toronto-area man's sentencing hearing

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OSHAWA, Ont. — Two young women whose lives were brutally cut short by a Toronto-area killer were robbed of their future, their families deprived of the chance to see them grow into adulthood, grieving relatives told an Oshawa, Ont., court Thursday.

In an emotional hearing that spanned several hours, friends and relatives of Rori Hache and Kandis Fitzpatrick mourned the two young women they said will forever be linked in death even though the pair never crossed paths in life.

"You took away so many experiences from her. You took away her young life," and her opportunity to know her nieces and nephews, Fitzpatrick's sister told Adam Strong in a statement read in court by prosecutors.

A decade later, he did the same to Hache, another young woman, Oksana Fitzpatrick told the court.

Hache's mother, Shanan Dionne, described her daughter as her best friend in a statement that was read by the Crown.

"I will never see Rori fall in love, graduate school, be married, have children," she said.

"Everything has been taken from me," she said, adding no amount of counselling will lessen the guilt of feeling that she has failed her daughter.

Dionne had initially planned to appear in person but court was briefly derailed Thursday after hearing she had tested positive for COVID-19. Arrangements were made to allow Dionne to speak via videoconference but the Crown chose to proceed by proxy when she failed to appear on the call.

Strong, who is in his late 40s, was convicted earlier this year of first-degree murder in Hache's death and manslaughter in that of Fitzpatrick.

The two women disappeared roughly a decade apart -- Hache, who was 18 and pregnant, went missing in August 2017, while Fitzpatrick was last seen in 2008.

Hache's torso was found in Lake Ontario about a month after she vanished.

Police did not link her death to Strong until later that year, after plumbers working on the house where he lived found a flesh-like substance in the pipes.

Fitzpatrick's body was never found, but in 2018, police alleged they found her DNA in Strong's basement, including on a hunting knife.

Court heard during trial that Strong previously acknowledged the Crown had proven he dismembered the two women, but argued they failed to prove he killed them.

Bill Fitzpatrick recalled scouring the streets of Oshawa and several other cities in search of his daughter after she vanished, and being told he could not file a missing person's report because of her "transient" lifestyle.

When he learned that police had found her DNA and believed she was dead, he was "devastated," Bill Fitzpatrick told the court.

"After all the years of searching, this was not the outcome I expected. I was shattered by the news," he said.

"Kandis will never get to know her nephews and nieces, Kandis will never get the chance to be a mom," and her younger brother barely remembers her because he was so young when she disappeared, he said.

Dionne also recalled an extensive search for her daughter after she vanished, and said she worried something had befallen Hache even though some suggested the young woman had simply run away and didn't want to be found.

Her worst fears were confirmed in November 2017 when investigators said the remains found in the lake were in fact Hache, she said.

"This is when I knew this was a nightmare I was never going to wake from," Dionne said in her statement.

A woman who identified herself as Hache's "auntie" said she has been plagued by terror and nightmares since learning of the young woman's gruesome death, and has grown to fear for her own safety.

""This wound will never heal. This wasn't an accident to come to terms with," she said.

First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. There is no minimum sentence for manslaughter, unless it is carried out with a firearm, and the maximum penalty is life behind bars.

Strong's sentencing hearing was initially scheduled for last month, but was postponed after the Superior Court of Justice directed courts to defer as many matters as possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hearing is scheduled to continue Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2021.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press