15-year-old Sharmini Anandavel wanted to save up some spending money to buy new shoes to wear to her upcoming 9th-grade graduation. That’s why she left her family’s Toronto apartment in June of 1999, headed to what she told her parents was a new job. She never returned.
It would be four months before her body was found, in a shallow grave beside the Don River. During that time, conflicting accounts of her last days came to light. Her parents were under the impression that a neighbor had set her up with a job, but by the time they went to his door, Stanley Tippett and his family had already moved out. Different people saw her in different places on the day she disappeared, but no one knew what Sharmini was doing in her last hours of life.
The search for her brought out dozens of volunteers and police officers, as well as helicopters searching the neighborhood. But it was a father and son who were out for a walk in the nearby parkland that found her body months later. By then, her bones had already been strewn about by coyotes, and any hope of obtaining DNA from her killer, or even determining a conclusive cause of death, was long gone.
Piecing together the clues after Sharmini Anandavel went missing
In spite of this, both the police and Sharmini’s family were pretty sure that they knew who had killed her. Even before her body was found, fingers were pointing at Stanley Tippett, the neighbor who had allegedly helped her find the job she was headed to when she went missing.
Tippett had a history of impersonating a police officer and had already had a couple of brushes with the law, dating back as far as 1991, when he was just 16 years old. Born with Treacher Collins syndrome, Tippett had a sunken facial structure and lopsided ears that, according to his mother, led him to be bullied by classmates and neighborhood kids when he was younger.
By the time Sharmini Anandavel went missing, Tippett was in his early 20s, living downstairs from Sharmini’s family with his own wife and toddler. At the time, he claimed to have a relationship with many of the children in the building, often taking them swimming at a nearby pool.
Stanley Tippett becomes a suspect in Sharmini Anandavel's disappearance
Sharmini had been tight-lipped about the nature of her new job, at least where her parents were concerned. And maybe for good reason, as her friends were under the impression that she was going to work undercover for a police anti-drug operation. When authorities searched her room, they found a bogus application for something called the “Metro Search Unit”—not a real police operation at all.
All these things and more pointed to Tippett, but all were circumstantial. There was no way to directly connect Tippett to the application found in Sharmini’s room, or to her death. No one had seen him with her on the day she disappeared, and there was no forensic evidence linking him to the crime. Tippett apparently sold his car to a junkyard for just $10 shortly after police first interrogated him, but though the authorities were able to seize it before it was destroyed, they found no evidence inside to link him to Sharmini’s death.
Ultimately, police had to let Tippett go, and the case remains technically unsolved, classified as a cold case more than twenty years later. “When I retired, I found myself apologizing to the Anandavel family,” Matt Crone, one of the lead investigators on Sharmini’s case, later told CBC News. “I think they deserve resolution for this, which they haven’t had, which nobody’s given them.”
Tippett's continued run-ins with the law
Though Stanley Tippett was never charged in Sharmini’s death, he had several more encounters with the law in the years since, one of which ultimately landed him indefinitely behind bars. Tippett and his family moved from Toronto to Ontario following Sharmini’s disappearance, and there he was accused of stalking on several occasions, eventually given a short stint of jail time for harassing a neighbor.
Once he was released, he allegedly approached a 12-year-old neighbor girl and another young woman with offers of a fake job at the YMCA. When the second woman notified police, they searched Tippett’s home and seized his van, where they found the “sorts of stuff that could be your abduction kit 101,” according to authorities. This included duct tape, rope, plastic sheets, cable ties, and a hammer and knife. He pled guilty to criminal harassment and received two years in prison.
It was not long after his release that Tippett was once again in trouble with the law. This time, he was accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. According to court records, Tippett picked up two girls, both of them visibly drunk, just after midnight and offered them a ride home. After dropping one off in the park, he allegedly assaulted the other. Police answered calls from concerned citizens who said they heard someone screaming.
Tippett’s story was that he had been carjacked by two men, who were the actual perpetrators of the attack. This story did not stand up in court, however, and in 2009, Tippett was convicted of seven counts, despite continuing to maintain his innocence. He was classified as a “dangerous offender,” and denied parole as recently as 2018. To this day, he likely remains behind bars.
Stanley Tippett arrested
The arrest and incarceration of Stanley Tippett may well keep a dangerous predator off the streets, assuming the allegations against him are accurate. And yet, it does little to shed light on the tragic death of Sharmini Anandavel. Tippett continues to maintain his innocence in that case, as well. In interviews, he refers to it only as the “Don Mills incident,” for the neighborhood where he and Sharmini lived at the time, and doesn’t use Sharmini’s name.
As for the authorities, while investigators like Matt Crone may be “absolutely certain” that Tippett is the culprit, they have never had enough evidence to charge him in Sharmini’s death, and it’s possible that they never will. So for now, Sharmini’s murder remains classified as a cold case, listed as Homicide 36 for 1999, and both authorities and Sharmini’s family must live without the closure that a charge against Tippett—or anyone else—might bring.