Four days after Christmas 2013, Ernest Guinto’s brother-in-law dropped him off at the Chapters book store near Square One.
It was 2:30 p.m. on a chilly, overcast afternoon. The 36-year-old Erindale man was wearing a red hoodie, dark jogging pants and light brown Timberland boots.
He had always been very close to the members of his immediate family, always in touch. He lived with his parents on Forestwood Drive, where his mother and father ran a wedding cake business out of the home.
But since that day more than five years ago, no one has seen or heard from him. He just vanished.
At first, it was thought he may have gone into hiding. Police said he was associated with a “criminal organization” and the initial investigation uncovered information that suggested his disappearance might have been deliberate.
“Information gathered to date by investigators suggests that he may be trying to avoid persons involved with criminal activity,” police said in a release at the time.
But there was also a fear that he could be dead, the victim of foul play. Peel’s Homicide and Missing Persons Bureau is overseeing the investigation.
Four months after his disappearance, Peel police released a video surveillance photograph of a man they said Guinto may have been with in the days before he went missing. They were seen in the area of 55 The Esplanade, a Toronto Community Housing building.
Investigators were eventually able to identify and speak to that man, but to no avail.
“The male identified did not provide any information that would assist with the investigation,” said Peel police spokesperson Const. Bancroft Wright.
As time has passed it has become less likely that his disappearance was voluntary, but his family has not given up.
“It’s been just over five years, but we’re not losing hope,” his sister Carmi Guinto posted on her Facebook page earlier this year. She wrote that her brother is always on her mind, and his absence hurts most during the holidays and around her birthday.
“Please keep my brother in your prayers for his safe return,” she wrote.
“Investigators continue to make efforts to obtain information as to Guinto’s whereabouts,” Wright said, noting no new information has been forthcoming recently.
“We remain hopeful that, with the assistance of the public and his friends, more information will become available,” he said.
by Pam Douglas