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Friday, 3 April 2009

Pulling the patches of the Toronto Bandidos branch The No Surrender Crew

Six gang members or associates are now on trial in Ontario Superior Court here in connection with the deaths of eight fellow Bandidos in April three years ago. All of the accused men face eight counts each of first-degree murder and all are pleading not guilty.Since the discovery of the bodies, stuffed into four vehicles abandoned on a country road southwest of London, the deaths have been widely described as execution-style killings, a term which evokes a picture of crisp if not merciful efficiency.Earlier this week, for instance,

Elgin County Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey told the jurors in his opening statement that most of the men died of gunshot wounds to the head, most delivered at close range. And a day later, jurors saw for the first time close-up photographs of the men's bloody and fatal head wounds. But what they learned yesterday was that one of the victims, Luis (Chopper) Raposo also had his right middle finger amputated and that another, John (Boxer) Muscedere, the supposed Canadian president of the Bandidos, was not only shot three times, but also suffered multiple fractured teeth and severe abrasions to both knees, the reasonable inference that he had been forced to kneel at some point.As well, another victim, 28-year-old George (Crash) Kriarkis was shot no fewer than seven times - four times in the face or head and once each in the shoulder, chest and abdomen.

Mr. Kriarkis's mother was in court yesterday when Ontario Provincial Police Constable Ross Stuart, the main forensic identification officer on the case, was describing the men's injuries as the jurors watched a slide show of pictures documenting them. She fell weeping into the arms of friends and once cried aloud, "Why?"Another victim, Frank (Bam Bam) Salerno, was shot at no fewer than nine times.Five of the shots connected - one to the bridge of his nose, another to his right cheek, another to his right ear, one to his right hand and one to the right thigh. Three more grazed his lower right leg, another grazed the top of his right hand.In total, not counting any that may have missed the mark, 33 shots were fired at the eight victims.In addition to gunshot wounds, Constable Stuart said, many of the men suffered other lacerations or abrasions, several to their wrists or hands, sometimes interpreted as wounds incurred when people try to defend themselves. Other injuries, such as the laceration to the top of Jamie (Goldberg) Flanz's head, may have been inflicted by the alleged ringleader of the plot, Wayne (Wiener) Kellestine, whom Mr. Gowdey described as having kicked one victim in the face and hit another, all the while dancing and singing bizarrely.According to the prosecutor, all the victims were members or associates of the tiny Toronto Bandidos branch called the No Surrender Crew.
With the Toronto branch on the outs with the group's head office in Texas, and also embroiled in an internal battle for control with a probationary Bandidos group in Winnipeg, the decision was made to "pull the patches" of the Toronto crew, leaving Winnipeg as the only Canadian chapter.Mr. Kellestine, who reportedly had aligned himself with the Winnipeg group, is alleged to have lured his Toronto colleagues to his farm, located just 14 kilometres from the site where the vehicles crammed with bodies were later found.
He and his five co-accused - Michael (Taz) Sandham, Dwight (Dee) Mushey and Marcello Aravena, all from Winnipeg, and Frank Mather from Toronto - allegedly donned gloves and armed themselves in preparation for the patch-pulling, with Mr. Sandham, a former police officer and soldier, allegedly hiding in the loft of the barn where the meeting was held.After a brief exchange of gunfire between Mr. Raposo and Mr. Sandham - it left the former bleeding from the neck and chest and the latter complaining his bulletproof vest had been hit - Mr. Gowdey said the rest of the Toronto Bandidos were searched and held at gunpoint."In the hours that followed," Mr. Gowdey told the jurors, the remaining men "were taken outside, unarmed, and shot one by one in their vehicles ... Not everyone [who is accused] actually shot and killed, but everyone participated and contributed ... People who deliberately help or encourage killing may be equally guilty as those who pulled the trigger."The revelations of the apparent cruelty of the men's deaths came late yesterday, and could not have contrasted more with the testimony of the morning.These early witnesses - several OPP officers who were first on the scene, a paramedic who had the unenviable task of checking the bodies for signs of life and who found instead in some the onset of rigor mortis - included a gentle woman named Mary Steele.She lives with her husband on the Stafford Line, near where the abandoned cars were found on April 8, 2006. Retired dairy farmers, the Steeles learned that there were cars on and near their property when at the breakfast table they got a call from a neighbour, an older man who every morning brought the day's newspaper over.She described this man, Forbes Oldham, as one of the retired farmers who, used to the early hours of rural life, routinely keep boredom at bay by going on "crop tours" of the area.
Eventually, the Steeles went to check out the cars themselves, albeit from a distance because, as Mrs. Steele said, "My husband and I watch CSI. We decided we weren't going to touch anything."
They phoned the police - twice, in fact - and were on the road when they heard the first officer cry that he'd found a body and learned that CSI was at their doorstep.


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