Multiple murder discovered in a rural Ont. field
Updated Sun. Apr. 9 2006 4:23 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Eight men were found dead in a remote part of a southwest farmer's field, prompting Ontario Provincial Police to launch a homicide investigation.
The grisly discovery was made by a property owner near the village of Shedden, about 20 kilometres west of St. Thomas, at around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.
The resident, who is not considered a suspect, noticed three vehicles and a tow truck parked in a wooded area away from the roadway. He called police upon seeing the victims.
OPP investigators have cordoned off the area and set up a command centre.
During a news conference Saturday afternoon, OPP Sgt. Dave Rektor said it is too early to speculate on motives for the killings.
"At this point we're at the very early stages of this investigation and we're not in a position to speculate on what the motive may be," Rektor said.
Police are not revealing how the eight men died, brushing off reporters' questions about whether the victims had been shot. However, they say there is no immediate danger to people living in the rural Elgin County region.
"At this point we have no concerns for the safety of the citizens in this area. It appears to be an isolated incident," Rektor said.
However, "it's going to have a huge effect on the population here. It's rural Ontario, we're not accustomed to these kinds of incidents unfolding in our backyards," Rektor said.
"Elgin County is a great county, it's known for being very peaceful and a laid-back type of area, so this is definitely not common in this area."
Rektor's opinion about the area were echoed by area residents.
"I think my first impression was, 'Wow'," Martin Oates said. "You don't expect anything like that happening out here."
Investigators believe the killings took place sometime within a 24 to 48-hour period from the time the victims were found.
The scene remained cordoned off Saturday evening as OPP investigators arrived. The victim's bodies and the four vehicles remained in place as well.
Rektor said the OPP was bringing "an assortment of experts" to the scene to "try to piece it back together."
The vehicles and bodies are being taken to Toronto for further investigation.
Police are also looking for outside help.
"We are appealing to the public for help, to call Crime Stoppers … if they heard or saw anything suspicious on this roadway yesterday or last night."
Another news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. EDT on Sunday.
There are some rumours this incident could be related to motorcycle gangs. The Canadian Press reported Saturday that Elgin County has some motorcycle clubs operating in the area, including the Hells Angels, the Bandidos and the Loners.
"But when police are directly asked that question, they're simply not saying," said CTV's Denelle Balfour in Shedden, Ont. on Saturday night.
Asked why the police aren't providing more information, she said: "Police often don't reveal much about their investigations. This investigation is in its early stages."
In addition, this case involves multiple homicides, which makes things even more complex, she said.
As to why the police say there's no danger to the public, Balfour said: "Well, we'd certainly like to know. The police are very quick to point out this is an isolated incident. But again, this is a multiple homicide. There are no suspects in custody. That means there is a murderer or murderers on the loose, again leading to more speculation this could be gang-related."
With reports from CTV's Denelle Balfour, Jim Junkin and files from The Canadian Press
Five charged in murders of eight Bandidos bikers
Updated Tue. Apr. 11 2006 6:31 AM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Police have charged five people with first-degree murder in connection with the killings of eight Bandidos motorcycle gang members or associates in rural southwest Ontario.
"The victims of this crime have been positively identified and are associated or belong to the Bandidos motorcycle gang," OPP Det.-Supt. Ross Bingley told reporters Monday afternoon. "This is an isolated incident with ties to the Bandidos.''
Det.-Insp. Don Bell described the shootings as an "internal cleansing" within the gang, and that the general public had little to fear.
The victims died of gunshot wounds, Bingley said.
The details come the day after witnesses reported seeing police march four people out of a house in Iona Station, Ont., according to The Canadian Press. The house is located about five kilometres from where the bodies were found Saturday near Shedden, Ont.
On Sunday, police raided a home believed to belong to Wayne Kellestine, the former leader of the St. Thomas Annihilators and now-defunct St. Thomas Loners biker gangs.
Kellestine is one of the five people -- four men and one woman -- arrested, Bingley said. However, he is the only formally recognized member of the Bandidos arrested, police said Monday.
The others arrested are:
Erick Niessen, 45, and Kerry Morris, 56, both of Monkton, Ont.
Frank Mather, 32, Dutton-Dunwich Township, Ont., and
Brett Gardiner, 21, no fixed address
They appeared in court in St. Thomas, Ont. Kellestine loudly thanked the judge.
Victims knew each other
The full-patch Bandidos among the dead are:
George Jesso, 52, of Etobicoke;
George Kriarakis, 28, Luis Manny Raposo, 41, and Francesco Salerno, 43, of Toronto;
John Muscedere, 48, of Chatham, Ont.; and
Paul Sinopoli, 30, of Sutton, Ont.
Jamie Flanz, 37, of Keswick, Ont., a "prospect" member, and
Michael Trotta, 31, of Mississauga, Ont., an associate member.
Three members of the Bandidos motorcycle club were reported missing by relatives Friday, according to a report published Monday in The Globe and Mail.
One of the men worked for Superior Towing, the Toronto-based company whose truck was found abandoned on a side road south of London, Ont.
The area where the bodies were found, in Elgin County, west of London, has a history of violent confrontations between rival motorcycle clubs.
In October 1999, Kellestine himself was wounded in a shootout near Highway 401, in what is believed to be the result of a rift inside one of the gangs, CP reported.
The murder scene
Investigators believe the killings took place sometime within a 24- to 48-hour period from the time the victims were found.
The men were found in four vehicles: a grey Pontiac Grand Prix, a silver Infinity SUV, a green Silverado tow truck and a Volkswagen Golf.
Police escorted members of the media beyond barricades for a closer look at the area where the cars were found, but there was little left to see. The bodies and vehicles were removed overnight.
An aerial view of the crime scene Saturday showed the vehicles parked within 200 metres of each other, with the bodies still inside.
Police will keep the crime scene off-limits for at least several days while investigators comb the area for clues.
"Clothing, identification, any evidence that may help us ascertain who they are," OPP Cst. Doug Graham said.
"We wouldn't want the farm owner to encounter (evidence), or anyone from the public," Graham said.
The Bandidos are a Texas-based group of about 800 members. It is smaller than the Hells Angels, which is the world's largest biker gang, but author Julian Sher says the Bandidos have always been more "in your face."
"Their slogan on their Canadian website is: 'We are the people your parents warned you about.'
"Very tough, but never able to take a foothold in Canada because the Hells Angels -- through a combination of bribes, bluster and often bullets -- have always crushed them," said Sher.
There are about 600 full-patch Hells Angels in Canada. Prior to the killings, the numbers of full-patch Bandidos were estimated to be in the dozens, with most of those in Western Canada.
With a report from CTV's Denelle Balfour and files from The Canadian Press