Spree Killer Victim Dead At 19

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(Last Updated On: February 1, 2018)

Shawn Keegan was just 19 years old when he was murdered by Toronto spree killer Marcello Palma. Keegan, described as a “transvestite prostitute”, was killed with the same gun as “female prostitute” Brenda Ludgate, 25, and “transsexual prostitute” Thomas “Deanna” Wilkinson, 31, within about three hours, on May 20, 1996.

Keegan, nicknamed “Junior” by people in the Gay Village. When he was “outed” as HIV-positive by the mainstream media, the community was against the disclosure. Keegan had lived for some time with a dozen other squatters in a vacant building, but had been evicted about 2 weeks earlier.

The Sex Workers Alliance of Toronto held a 150-person vigil in Allan Gardens on behalf of all victims.

Palma, 33, a married man with a child, was arrested in Halifax about two weeks after spree. He admitted killing all three people, but claimed he was not criminally responsible at the time. He was under the care of a psychiatrist at the time of the killings, but legally owned the .357 magnum he used, in addition to five other firearms. He told the psychiatrist he wanted to kill “scum” and was familiar with people in the sex trade.

Palma’s wife testified in court that he struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, and would disappear for long periods of time. She did not call police when he put a gun to her head and threatened to kill her, but did spend almost a year trying to get help for his mental health problems. That included contacting his psychiatrist who told her there was “not much wrong with him.”

On the day of the spree, Palma became irate, trashed his business office and took a hammer to the cars of co-workers. He also played golf with friends (but left angry) and visited his parents.

Palma used Supreme Expanding Talon hollow point bullets, which inflict more damage than a regular bullet. He killed Ludgate first during the Victoria Day thunderstorm. About 40 minutes after killing Ludgate, Palma picked up Keegan at the intersection of Homewood Avenue and Carlton St., referred to as “Transvestite Alley”.

Toronto homicide Det. Sgt. Jim McDermott called Palma a “spree killer and a serial killer.” In court, heard before a judge only, Palma’s claim of insanity was denied. On April 20, 2001, Palma was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.

Keegan, who was dressed as a woman at the time, was pushed down some stairs and shot in the head. Realizing Keegan was not dead, Palma shot again. Residents of the apartment building notified security, who found Keegan still alive. However, Keegan died shortly thereafter.

Palma then sent on to kill Wilkinson very shortly afterwards. Palma remained in Toronto for about a week before fleeing to Halifax, where police tracked him through the use of a credit card.

Toronto homicide Det. Sgt. Jim McDermott called Palma a “spree killer and a serial killer.” In court, heard before a judge only, Palma’s claim of insanity was denied. On April 20, 2001, Palma was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.

Palma’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Ballon, knew of Palma’s expressed desire to kill “street people,” and of his gun collection, but did not take Palma’s threat seriously, allegedly saying “try not to kill more than three persons.” Justice David Watt said the murder victims were “members of a class he had targeted for extinction. They were people he regarded as a lesser species.”

Mirha-Soleil Ross, a performance artist and sex worker, was catalyzed by the three murders to approach the 519 Church St, Community Centre to conduct an evaluation of the needs of members in the trans community. This led to Meal Trans, which offers a safe and supportive space with healthy meals, and out of that, came various trans programs which focussed on lower-income, street-involved, homeless, sex-working and marginalized members of the trans communities.


Murder Village Map

 


Vital Statistics

Name: Shawn “Junior” Keegan
Age: 19
Gender: Male
Date of Death: May 20, 1996
Manner of Death: Shot
Location: Homewood Avenue
Suspect Name: Marcello Palma
Conviction & Sentence: First-degree murder, life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years

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Sawyer Cowley

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