Toronto Star

November 9, 1999

Women express remorse

Accused await their fate
in officer's slaying
[photo]
ALEX TAVSHUNSKY FOR THE TORONTO STAR
WAITING FOR VERDICT: Elaine Rose Cece, right, and Mary Barbara Taylor, accused of murder in the death of Detective Constable William Hancox, below, listen to the judge's charge to the jury yesterday. Jurors retired at 9:30 last night after several hours and will resume deliberations today.
 

Jury not told of prior convictions for attacks involving knives

By Donovan Vincent
and Dale Anne Freed
Toronto Star Staff Reporters

Two women accused of stabbing a Toronto police officer to death have prior convictions for violent attacks involving knives - but the jury didn't hear about that.

Elaine Rose Cece, 41, and Mary Barbara Taylor, 31, the pair charged in last year's killing of Detective Constable William Hancox, 32, each have been found guilty of prior crimes - Cece, assault with a weapon and kidnapping; Taylor, assault with a weapon. Both incidents involved knives.

But the 12 jurors at their second-degree murder trial - who began deliberations about 5:30 p.m. yesterday, retiring for the night at 9:30 p.m. - didn't hear about their pasts because the two were not called by their lawyers to testify.

Therefore, according to rules of evidence, their criminal records could not be read to the jury.

In an interview Sunday at the Metro West Detention Centre, the two lovers expressed remorse for the officer's death.

``We're really sorry this happened,'' Taylor said. ``It's pretty hard to come to terms with killing somebody. His son will never get to see his father.''

Added Cece: ``I cry about it, and I think about his kids.''

During his day-long charge to the jury yesterday, Mr. Justice David Watt noted that the lives of Cece and Taylor had lost purpose. They were addicted to crack cocaine and dependent on government to eke out an existence, he said.

He also told jurors they shouldn't let sympathy, bias or prejudice toward any of the parties involved in the case influence their decision, noting this was a criminal trial, not a ``popularity contest.''

The jury has already heard Cece and Taylor, who both came from broken homes, were destitute, living on the street and suicidal at the time of the slaying on Aug. 4, 1998.

The killing shocked and outraged citizens across Greater Toronto. More than 12,000 people attended the officer's funeral in Pickering.

Hancox, a member of the break and enter unit of Toronto police special investigations services, was stabbed in the chest by Cece with a 30-centimetrebutcher knife that Taylor stole from a plaza at Neilson Ave. and Ellesmere Rd., the trial was told.

The undercover officer was killed around 10 p.m. while sitting in the parking lot in his unmarked van doing a surveillance detail.

Neither Cece nor Taylor knew he was a police officer, the court heard.

Crown Attorney John McMahon told the jurors in his closing arguments that the pair are guilty of second-degree murder because they showed intent to kill Hancox in their ``planned ambush'' of him.


Women met while doing time in a Brampton jail


But the women's lawyers, Marshall Sack and David O'Connor, argued the pair were too drugged out and suicidal to form that intent, and so are guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

The jury never heard details of the assault and weapons charges that brought Cece to the place where she met Taylor in August, 1997: the Vanier Correctional Institute for Women in Brampton.

Cece was there serving a six-month sentence for a May, 1997 conviction for assault with a weapon, kidnapping and failing to comply with a probation order for another conviction of assault with a weapon the previous month. Taylor was doing time for breaching sentence conditions.

Cece's charges stemmed from an incident in Kingston with her ex-girlfriend Cheryl, a woman she was involved with for 15 years.. After the breakup, Cece went to the home where Cheryl was staying, attacked her and held her hostage at knifepoint.

At the time of Hancox's slaying, Cece was on probation for the knife attack.

In an interview with The Star at the Metro West Detention Centre, Cece said she ``kind of flipped'' when she found out Cheryl was seeing someone else.

Meanwhile, Erin MacCarthy, a crown attorney who was the prosecutor at a sentencing for Taylor in July, 1996, said Taylor's criminal record ``reads like a book.''

The lengthy record includes 13 convictions for prostitution-related offences, six convictions involving violence - four for robbery and two for assault, including assault with a weapon - and a handful of property offences.

The convictions include a Jan. 15, 1996 attack on a Toronto man in which Taylor brandished a knife.

According to a court transcript from her guilty plea and sentencing, Taylor went to the man's residence on Ashdale Ave. around 1:20 a.m. to collect money the man owed her then-husband for a sex act between the men. When Taylor showed up, she was brandishing a knife with an 20-centimetre blade. When the victim shut the door on her, she plunged the knife into the door four times.

Neither Cece nor Taylor has done time in a federal penitentiary.

Asked Sunday what they would say to Hancox's widow Kim if they were given the chance, Taylor said they've wondered about the propriety of ``saying to Ms Hancox, face-to-face, I'm sorry.''

They say they live every day with remorse for that hot August night.


Pair say they live every day with remorse for slaying


And, they added, they can't forget the horror they have visited upon the officer's family: his wife, daughter Sandra and son Quinn, who was born 26 days after his father's death.

The two, who occupy separate cells in the detention centre, say they often meet in the bathroom, hugging and crying about Hancox's death and the family he left behind.

Cece, who is an Ojibwa, said she goes to a private room at the centre when she can and prays aloud for the fallen officer in a smudging, a spiritual purification and healing rite.

The pair said the trial itself is one small way of helping Hancox's family reach a fuller understanding of what happened that night in Scarborough.

By pleading not guilty, Cece said, they ensured the details of Hancox's death would come out in open court.

``It would be too easy to just plead (guilty),'' Cece said. ``I wanted it all to come out, as much as possible. As much as it's hard, his family needed to hear this.''

``I just want (the Hancox family) to know this wasn't planned,'' Cece added.

Taylor admitted she and Cece were also anxious to tell the world that they, too, were hurting at the time.

Hours before Hancox was killed, they tried to be admitted to the crisis unit at Scarborough's Centenary Hospital. But they left after the psychiatrist there told them the hospital didn't admit couples together.

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