A 49-year-old Filipina’s death in Burnaby, Canada sent shockwaves among the Filipinos in her community as she was killed by a 21-year-old and 15-year-old. Her burned remains would be discovered in Greentree Village Park, near a children’s playground. Her family, friends, and the rest of her community have been in mourning since her violent death.
“She did not deserve her fate,” said her longtime friend. Maria Cecilia Loreto, who often went by Mycel, was among the many hardworking Filipinos abroad, striving to attain a better life. Through her best efforts, she was able to bring her family to Canada.
However, she would not be able to spend any more time with them as her life was gruesomely taken away by two men. It was believed that the victim and suspects knew each other, and that the incident was planned.
Maria Cecilia Loreto was better known as Maricel or Mycel, a combination of her names Maria and Cecilia, to her friends and family. She arrived in Vancouver, Canada in 2011, and has since been working multiple jobs; one including at a Superstore.
"My sister is a very good mom. She’s a very good provider," according to her brother Armand Perez."
According to Salve Dayao, a longtime friend of Cecilia’s whom she called “Tita”, she was known for her love of community, dancing, and singing. Salve is the head of the New Westminster Philippine Festival Society wherein every year, they conduct the multicultural festival at Westminster Pier Park.
Salve was a professional singer who ran her restaurant, the Java Jazz Bistro, for more than a decade before selling it. She met Cecilia at the same restaurant as the latter often spent time there. It was through their love and passion for singing that they became close friends. Cecilia was described as one who loved to perform and help out at the many events in their community (as well as being among the performers herself).
"She sings in a band and she knows a lot of people. She’s very famous in the Filipino community because she serves the community and she has a lot of friends."
Cecilia had originally lived in New Westminster then moved to Vancouver for a while before returning to New Westminster to live with her youngest daughter. Ever since arriving in Canada in 2011, Cecilia worked three jobs in order to save enough money to bring her husband, son, and daughter to join her in Canada. She was able to reach her goal around 2018 or 2019.
"She was such a bubby, sweet, young lady. I never heard her say anything nasty about anybody," said Salve as she recalled her good friend, Cecilia.
Remains Found at the Park
A call at 1:57 in the morning was made to a Burnaby fire department regarding a grassfire at the Greentree Village Park. When the emergency responders arrived, they found a body that was on fire near the children’s playground.
Upon closer inspection, the victim had apparently sustained suspicious injuries; thus, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) was called to take over the case. Initially, the investigators could not determine the identity of the victim; whom they described as a woman who was under five feet tall.
"Investigators believe it’s a woman, but due to the circumstances involved with the burning of the body, that has not yet been confirmed," said IHIT Detective Lara Jensen.
Later on, the IHIT was able to identify the victim to be Cecilia, an immigrant from the Philippines. The IHIT believed that Cecilia was murdered in her New Westminster home on the evening of March 17, 2021, before transferring her remains hours later at the Greentree Village Park.
Police tape surrounded the area where Cecilia’s body was found; which was just a few meters from the children’s playground. A white police tent was also put up to conduct further investigations about Cecilia.
The IHIT also believed that Cecilia’s case was not a random act as the victim and suspects knew each other. The killing of Cecilia was planned and deliberate. However, they assured the public that there is no ongoing concern regarding public safety.
"This was not gang-related. This was not drug-related. This was not a random incident. From what we can tell, we are sure everybody knew each other," according to Sergeant Frank Jang with IHIT.
The IHIT cannot disclose further details regarding the incident. Despite the publication ban and act protecting the identity of the minor perpetrator as well as other details regarding the incident, Salve believes that the investigators truly knew what happened.
"We have a very good idea of what happened, but all that information, right now, isn’t for public consumption, unfortunately," said the IHIT.
The authorities were able to confirm that the 21-year-old perpetrator of the death of Cecilia was Carlo Tobias—who was also facing a single charge of sexual interference involving a minor during November 2020.
Carlo was not alone as he had a 15-year-old with him as they murdered Cecilia. However, the minor cannot be named due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
"Those are young lives, young people, now facing the most serious charges we have in the book."
Both of them were charged with first-degree murder as well as an indignity to a human body.
In March 2021, Carlo and the 15-year-old appeared separately in the New Westminster Provincial Court via video. They were both wearing orange jumpsuits and masks. Further matters were discussed on April 12 and April 28, 2021, for the minor and Carlo respectively.
None of Cecilia’s family and friends were present during the trial.
Prior to being charged with first-degree murder, Carlo also faced a single charge of sexual interference with a minor “at or near Richmond” during the month of November 2020.
According to the Criminal Code of Canada, sexual interference is described as touching for a sexual purpose, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of a person under the age of 16 years.
On March 17, 2021, Cecilia was first reported missing after not coming home that day. Maria Austria, the Philippine Consulate General in Vancouver, shared information about Cecilia that may help in her safe return.
"She also goes by the names Mycel and Maricel. She was last seen in New Westminster on March 17, 2021, along 5th Ave and 9th Street. She was driving an old black Honda Civic with red lines. Let’s help each other find her po."
Since the violent death of Cecilia, a GoFundMe campaign was put up in order to raise money to help her grieving family.
"A kind, loving sister, a caring mother, who devoted life and passion to raising two children, very active in the community helping others in each way she could, was tragically taken from us. Funds are needed to help her rest in peace respectfully as soon as possible. Thank you for your support."
Cecilia’s death was a great loss to the rest of her Filipino community as her presence will surely be missed. She devoted her time to volunteering for the community by organizing and performing at the festivals. According to Lady David, one of Cecilia’s friends, she hopes that people would remember Cecilia as a happy and kind person, and not reduce her memory to what happened to her.
"It’s the most horrible thing to happen to her. She worked hard to bring her children here. She is a very beautiful person. She can’t be written off. She will be remembered," said Salve.
Family, friends, and co-workers visited her memorial located at the Greentree Village Park and offered their sympathies and prayers. They were all shocked to discover that the burned victim was someone they knew. Continuous support started pouring on from the community as they came together to remember Cecilia for the great woman that she was.
"For this to happen to her, it’s just so horrible. I don’t know why it had to end this way for her."
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