It’s been just over three months since Connie Virgioni missed an early morning call from her daughter’s best friend. She knew something was wrong so she jumped in her car and started driving to Brampton, Ont., where her daughter Vanessa Virgioni lived with her seven-year-old son, in the basement apartment of a home near Bramalea Road and Steeles Avenue.
She then received a text message from the friend which said “I’m sorry I had to tell you this way. Vanessa’s gone.” Connie replied “What do you mean, she’s gone? Where did he take her?” to which the friend wrote, “No Connie, he murdered her.”
Connie said her grandson, who was home at the time, ran to a neighbour’s home, knocked on the door and told them their mother needed help. They called police. Vanessa, a single mother who worked hard to provide for her son, had been found with obvious signs of trauma inside the basement apartment. The 29-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her mother confirmed to Global News that Vanessa had been stabbed.
Investigators quickly put out the name and photograph of the suspect, 29-year-old Linval Alfonso Ritchie, Vanessa’s ex-boyfriend who was also the father of the boy. Ritchie was later arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Connie said she was angry when she learned Ritchie was the suspect. “I was just like ‘How could you do that? She was so good to you. She was the mother of your child.”
The couple lived together on and off until their son was about three. Connie noted though, that during a visit in 2019 Vanessa called police after Ritchie threatened the two women. Court documents obtained by Global News found that March 2019, Ritchie pleaded guilty to assault, break and enter and threatening death. He was sentenced to roughly eight months pre-trial custody, a two-year suspended sentence and a five-year weapons ban.
Connie recalled that her daughter told her that prior to 2019, Ritchie had been physically abusive but she never called police. “She always gave him the benefit of the doubt,” adding that Vanessa wanted to keep the father in her son’s life.
After learning that another woman has been murdered in an alleged case of intimate partner violence in Peel Region, Connie Virgioni said she is feeling for the family of that woman, who Global News has learned only recently arrived in Canada from India.
Connie has a message to other victims of intimate partner violence – “Stop with the chances. Run. Hide. Protect yourself and your child.”
On Monday, Peel police were called to the Canadian Tire store at Mavis and Britannia roads and found 22-year-old Chandanpreet Kaur suffering from fatal stab sounds. Her 26-year-old husband Charanjeet Kaur was arrested an charged with first-degree murder. So far this year in Peel Region, 25 people have been murdered. Investigators say three of those killed were victims of intimate partner violence.
Peel Police launched an intimate partner violence unit in April 2021 to support investigators and victims of abuse. Acting Inspector Rebecca Miller Small said the rise in reported cases of intimate partner violence has meant the unit has already expanded the number of officers working there from 49 to 65.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.
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