As the first of the bodies were recovered, Toronto Police Const. Gerry James reached out to colleagues to pass on the grim news: Police were missing a third person, a gay man listed in their database. Police believed he too had been killed, and that it might have been connected to Anderson-Griffin, a gay teen who’d gone missing the year before.
“He’s been murdered,” James says he told colleagues, according to an internal memo obtained by the Globe and Mail. “This may be connected to the other three.”
The officers in James’ contact list scoured the city for Anderson-Griffin, trying to glean clues that he might still be alive.
First, James requested information from the province’s Emergency Social Services about LGBTQ youth in Toronto. After reviewing all reports about Anderson-Griffin, the page mentions him as living in Scarborough, and shows his school, John F. Kennedy Collegiate Institute.
Then, investigators scoured social media accounts for clues. If anyone in Scarborough knew Anderson-Griffin, they would be able to identify him in a police lineup. By late April, four days after police got the missing-person call, the team began searching Instagram and Tinder dating apps, looking for incriminating clues.
They discovered a Tinder profile linked to a profile registered to a house on Dudley Street, where Anderson-Griffin’s mother had called police on Thursday, April 13. Through a request to the app, police identified an IP address at that home as belonging to the suspect.
Police called the landlord, saying they were there to recover Anderson-Griffin’s body. But after a bit of confusion, the officer explained they just wanted to make sure the house was safe. That night, James heard no more.
In June, the family received an email from Toronto police. A canine unit was inspecting the house, police told the family, and a dog handler from nearby Saunders Park had come over to help. He would alert them if anything didn’t seem right.
The next day, Toronto Police Const. Karan Smith emailed the same family member, saying the dog team had found Anderson-Griffin, and that the officer would be available to come to the house later in the day to retrieve him.
After that, it was all silent on the missing-person front.
Police went onto to tell neighbors how it all turned out. The missing-person police report said Anderson-Griffin’s body was recovered at the high school, under a statue of a woman’s face holding a cardboard box.
“The entire community was shaken by the tragedy,” the body recovery report reads. “The entire gay community of Toronto was horrified and saddened by the loss of life.”
Neighbors and friends started to call each other “Sister” or “Brother.” Toronto’s police force opened a community intervention unit to counsel the neighbourhood.
The night of Anderson-Griffin’s return, neighbors and police officers came by the building to greet each other. Several neighbors, so wounded by the moment, were weeping.
But according to documents viewed by The Washington Post, that night, police were “inconcerned with the possibility of a possible hate crime.”
When police searched the building that night, they didn’t find a knife.
“Didn’t see a knife,” told Detective Inspector Shawn Yan after looking into Anderson-Griffin’s room. “Didn’t find evidence of an argument or any indication that an argument had broken out.”
Police recommended charging Anderson-Griffin with failure to report to authorities. In a memo dated July 11, a Toronto police officer argued it was “a strong charge given that Mr. [Anderson-Griffin] left a trail of evidence on social media.”
But when the Crown attorney reached out to the police about the charge, Toronto Deputy Chief Paul Patterson argued that it was unlikely that Anderson-Griffin had voluntarily left his room without staff being in the residence, and that police’s social media searches could not link him to the injuries that he’d sustained.
Patterson said while Anderson-Griffin had reported his high school as a missing person, “he also indicated that he had not attended school for several weeks prior to his disappearance.”