TORONTO - The family of a doctor found strangled and beaten to death in a suitcase on the side of the road expressed gratitude Friday for the outpouring of support that followed her tragic killing as police searched a river for more evidence.
Officers were looking for keys, a purse and cellphone belonging to Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji in the Humber River and near a bridge where her body was found, police said.
In their statement, relatives of Fric-Shamji, 40, whose neurosurgeon husband is charged in her death, said they were especially grateful for the support shown for her three young children.
"It has been a kindness for which we are very thankful," they said in the statement. "We would also like to express thanks to the many friends, neighbours and colleagues who have shared their memories of Elana as a wonderful person, mother, and physician."
The family urged donations in her honour to be made to a charity that helps those fleeing abusive households.
Toronto police Det. Steve Ryan alluded last week to a relationship that had been troubled — even though social media posts of the couple and family painted a portrait of a blissful relationship.
"I don't want to get into specifics but there were problems in their marriage," Ryan said amid reports that Fric-Shamji was preparing to leave her husband.
Fric's husband of 12 years, Dr. Mohammed Shamji, also 40, was arrested on first-degree murder charges on the evening of Dec. 2 at a coffee shop a day after officers were alerted to human remains found on the roadside just north of the city, police said. The killing likely occurred late Nov. 30 or early the following day, police said.
Mohammed Shamji is charged in the death of his wife, Elana.
Fric-Shamji worked at the Scarborough Hospital as a family physician. She was last seen on the evening of Nov. 30 and her mother contacted police the following day to report her missing. The couple lived with their children, now being looked after by their grandmother, in a home in the city's north end. Their ages were not immediately available.
"It's different in the sense that both the deceased and the accused are both such respected doctors in the community," Ryan said. "We now have three children who are without their mom and their dad."
The killing sparked an outpouring of grief and disbelief from those who knew Fric-Shamji, described as a talented professional who helped improve the health-care system.
"Dr. Elana Fric. A mother and primary care physician who put others before herself. "
A video posted earlier in the week by Dr. Allyson Koffman, a friend of the victim's, showed happy scenes of the family during various events.
"MissUElana love always, your friend, Al" the caption says.
Dr. Deirdre Sheahan also alluded to the troubled relationship in a social media comment.
"Dr. Elana Fric. A mother and primary care physician who put others before herself. Domestic violence has no boundaries," Sheahan tweeted.
Shamji, who worked at Toronto Western Hospital and was a faculty member at the University of Toronto, is due to return to court later this month.
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