Cancer researcher out for ‘usual evening walk’ fatally stabbed in downtown Toronto

WATCH ABOVE: He was out for a routine evening walk -- but never returned home. Loved ones of the city's latest homicide victim say he was an upstanding citizen, a spiritual man, a scientist working on a cure for cancer. And as Caryn Lieberman reports, police believe Dr. Mark Ernsting was the victim of a robbery gone wrong.

TORONTO — A senior biomedical engineer working on a cure for pancreatic cancer has been identified as the victim in a fatal downtown Toronto stabbing Tuesday night.

Police said 39-year-old Mark Ernsting died in hospital after he was found with stab wounds on McGill Street, near Church Street and Gerrard Street, just before 9:30 p.m.

“The deceased in this case was out for his usual evening walk and we got reports from some citizens in the area that they heard a commotion,” said Detective Paul Worden.

“When they looked outside they found a male party laying on the sidewalk.”

Police said a suspect was arrested around 10 p.m. after he was picked up by officers for an unrelated robbery earlier in the day.

“Through some sharp work by those officers they realized there were some connections to our homicide,” said Worden. “We were called and investigated and linked the two.”

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Investigators said they are looking into the possibility that a random robbery gone wrong was behind the attack.

Police said the suspect and the victim did not know each other.

“We can determine now, doesn’t look like he was able to get anything. The deceased put up a fight and that’s what caused the suspect to flee,” Worden explained.

The Ontario Institute of Cancer Research (OICR) confirmed Ernsting worked as senior biomedical engineer in the Drug Discovery Program.

His colleagues walked to the site of the stabbing Wednesday afternoon, where they laid flowers and said a prayer for him.

Ernsting’s LinkedIn page indicates he was employed at the cancer research centre for the past four years and also held the position as an adjunct professor at Ryerson University in the faculty of engineering.

Ernsting received his PhD in biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto in 2005 and graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from Queen’s University in 1999.

READ MORE: Timeline: Recent rash of violent crime in Toronto

“We notified his next of kin and his partner and of course they are devasted by this,” said Worden. “It’s just really unfortunate that a good citizen out for a walk during the evening and a tragic set of circumstances led to his death.”

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Carly Griffin, a friend and former colleague of Ernsting, told Global News she had worked with him at OICR for two years.

She said Ernsting was dedicated to his research and loved to garden and sing in a choir in his spare time.

“We’ve got a great group here and he really fit in well, not just with his voice, but with his personality, and he was an important part of the tenor section,” said Dan Norman, the musical director at the Church of the Redeemer on Bloor Street West.

“I would look over in the choir’s direction and he always had a very gentle and very warm posture, a very lovely man, and our interactions after service over coffee were always engaging, talking about life, and for him, a deepening of his own faith as well,” said incumbent priest Andrew Asbil,

The accused in the case has been identified as 21-year-old Calvin Nimoh and he faces a charge of second-degree murder.

Sources told Global News Nimoh has a long list of prior convictions and was on probation at the time of the stabbing Tuesday.

Police acknowledge Nimoh is known to them and had a criminal history that was “concerning.”

Anyone with information about the fatal stabbing is asked to contact police at 416-808-7400, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).

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