Spree Killer’s Last Victim

Wilkinson murder - laneway photo by Moira Welsh
Police investigation in laneway, photo by Moira Welsh

Thirty-one-year-old Deanna (Thomas) Wilkinson was the last victim of spree killer Marcello Palma, who killed three prostitutes within just a few hours on Victoria Day weekend, May 20, 1996.

Wilkinson was also a songstress who had performed at various venues, and was a poetess and short story writer. The Sex Workers Alliance of Toronto held a 150-person vigil in Allan Gardens on behalf of all victims.

Wilkinson was shot with a .357 Sturm Ruger owned by Palma, just minutes after he murdered 19-year-old Shawn Keegan on the same street. Palma had murdered Brenda Ludgate, 25, about two hours previously. Palma used Supreme Expanding Talon hollow point bullets, which inflict more damage than a regular bullet.

Marcello Palma -photo by AndrewStawicki. Brenda Ludgate, first victim, inset
Marcello Palma -photo by AndrewStawicki. Brenda Ludgate, first victim, inset

Palma had become enraged earlier in the day and had damaged cars and his office just hours before starting his spree. Palma legally owned six guns. His wife would later testify that he struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts and that even though she called his psychiatrist out of concern, she was told Palma had “not much wrong” with him. He had been seeking psychiatric help for at least five years.

Palma had admitted to a psychiatrist that he wanted to kill street people, whom he called “scum.” He was familiar with Homewood Avenue, then a well-known strip for finding trans prostitutes referred to as “Transvestite Alley”. After killing Keegan, Palma walked up Homewood Avenue, and found Wilkinson. The combination of Victoria Day fireworks and a thunderstorm may have covered the noise of the gunshots that killed Keegan.

Wilkinson was not found until 9am the next morning, shot in the head. Palma remained in Toronto for about a week before fleeing to Halifax, where police tracked him through the use of a credit card.

Marcello Palma -photo by David Cooper
Marcello Palma -photo by David Cooper

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.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Deanna Wilkinson (aka Thomas Wilkinson)
Age: 31
Gender: Female
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

Spree Killer Victim Dead At 19

Black and white photo of murder victim Shawn Keegan at a BBQ by Peter Power
Murder victim Shawn Keegan (wearing cap) at a BBQ, photo by Peter Power

Shawn Keegan was just 19 years old when they 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” Deanna (Thomas) Wilkinson, 31, within about three hours, on May 20, 1996.

Keegan had lived for some time with a dozen other squatters in a vacant building, but had been evicted about 2 weeks earlier.

Black and white photo of murder victim Shawn Keegan

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.

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.

Keegan, who was dressed as a woman at the time of their death, 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, they died shortly thereafter.

Marcello Palma -photo by David Cooper
Marcello Palma -photo by David Cooper

Palma then went 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.

Marcello Palma's truck. photo by Paul Irish
Marcello Palma’s truck. Photo by Paul Irish

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

Shot In The Head

Black and white photo of murderer Ronald Arthur Cooney

Fifty-one-year-old Norman John Cardwell was last seen on February 11, 1991, in the late afternoon, near the rear of his car. Witnesses said he was alone. He had just finished a 4pm appointment with his bank manager. Cardwell, who lived at at 9 Thorncliffe Avenue, had moved there about 20 years previously, and was recently divorced. He had two children.

On February 13, 1991, police were called to Cardwell’s home, where they found him shot in the head. Family and friends had reported to police that he failed to show up for work.

Black and white photo of murder victim Norman Cardwell

Within two weeks, police released clear images of a man’s face, photographed near the Cardwell home, apparently from a bank machine camera. By March 25, police had arrested a Cleethorpes Boulevard man, 28-year-old Ronald Arthur Cooney and remanded him in custody. He was charged with first-degree murder.

Cardwell had seen Cooney’s personal ad in the back of NOW magazine seeking male companionship. Cooney went to Cardwell’s home during the evening of February 11, and for unknown reasons pulled his gun and shot Cardwell in the head multiple times before robbing him and fleeing.

Later, Cooney was drinking in a bar in Belleville when had admitted to a friend that he had killed someone. “I shot him four times.”

Cooney withdrew $300 from bank machines using Cardwell’s credit card, initially saying in court it was Darryl Marsh, a high school friend, who had killed Cardwell and given him the card. Cooney used the cash to buy everyday items including roses for his girlfriend, an exotic dancer.

Marsh died of an acetaminophen overdose two months after the murder, at the bottom of the Scarborough Bluffs.

Scarborough Bluffs photo by Alan Dunlop
Scarborough Bluffs photo by Alan Dunlop, 1985

In court, it was suggested that Cooney was bisexual and took out ads in NOW magazine specifically targeting closeted gay men. Throughout the entire trial, Cooney insisted the now-dead Marsh had committed the murder with a gun stolen from Cooney and that the NOW ad was made by him on Marsh’s behalf.

The jury took three days to find Cooney guilty of manslaughter, not first-degree murder, in the killing of Cardwell. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison. In passing sentence, Madame Justice Patricia German said the manslaughter verdict was only an indication that the Crown had not proven beyond reasonable doubt that Cooney had ever been to Cardwell’s home.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Norman John Cardwell
Age: 51
Gender: Male
Date of Death: February 11, 1991
Manner of Death: Shot
Location: 9 Thorncliffe Ave
Suspect Name: Ronald Arthur Cooney
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 12 years

Reload

Bob Lake photo for The Highlander
Bob Lake photo for The Highlander

Twenty-four-year-old Torontonian Charles Edward Palmer was shot in the head and chest with a .22 calibre rifle at his family cottage on Bob Lake near Minden, Ontario. He bled to death. Several rifles, a gold bracelet and his wallet were stolen.

Palmer, who lived on Shier Drive in Scarborough, was found lying dead on a couch on March 26, 1983, by his mother and sister. They had driven to the cottage after her son failed to show up for work at the family electrical automotive business.

Police said Palmer was last seen at about 6 p.m. on March 24 at a gas station in Minden, a town 190 km outside Toronto. A younger man was with him in his light blue 1979 Oldsmobile Delta 88. Police scoured the area of the cottage on foot and by helicopter looking for the missing car.

Black and white photo of murder victim Charles Palmer
murder victim Charles Palmer

Palmer’s car crossed over the Rainbow Bridge to the United States at about 4:30 p.m. on March 25 and was later found abandoned in the southern U.S.

Toronto native 18-year-old Kevin Joseph Humphrey was arrested eight days later after fleeing the country, and charged with first-degree murder, police said.

On July 18, 1983, the preliminary inquiry into the murder trial began. On July 19, Provincial Court Judge P.E. Barker imposed a publication ban. Information regarding the murder would be made public in 2008 when Humphrey appealed his sentence for a vicious knife attack on another man.

Humphrey had committed several crimes prior to murdering Palmer, including prostitution, theft, possession of stolen property, use of stolen credit cards, and possession of narcotics. During the trial, he alleged that Palmer was a violent rapist who had attacked a number of young men living the same area as Humphrey.

Humphrey claimed that after a friend had been raped by Palmer, he went with Palmer to the cottage where, after using drugs and getting into an altercation, he shot Palmer twice. Although Humphrey claimed he had gone with Palmer to confront and not kill him, evidence showed Humphrey had to reload the rifle after the first shot.

Humphrey was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with no change of parole for 10 years.

Humphrey was released on day parole in 1996 and committed various crimes over the next number of years. He was “unlawfully at large” (breached parole) and deemed a moderate risk for both general and violent recidivism. On October 16, 2006, he stabbed and slit the throat of a man named Richard Kent, a fellow crack user.


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Charles Edward Palmer
Age: 24
Gender: Male
Date of Death: March 24, 1983
Manner of Death: Shot
Location: Bob Lake, Minden Ontario
Suspect Name: Kevin Joseph Humphrey
Conviction & Sentence: Second-degree murder, parole eligibility in 10 years

Murderous Love

The Church of the Holy Apostles photo by Beyond My Ken.
The Church of the Holy Apostles photo by Beyond My Ken. This church performed gay “wedding” ceremonies in the 1970s.

David Albert Manship once loved James MacDonald so much, he deliberately tried to get sent to jail just to be with MacDonald. But on April 8, 1979, Manship, 36, killed MacDonald, 35, in his King Street West apartment.

Manship said the two had a tumultuous relationship that began 15 years previously. During the Christmas season of 1973, the two men went to New York City to get “married” at a chapel which performed ceremonies for gay people.

Manship and MacDonald both had extensive criminal records, and had met in 1960 in prison. They were released, and they moved to Calgary where they committed additional crimes. After robbing a store with a gun, both were sentenced but Manship was paroled first. Manship left the province and returned to report himself for breach of parole, just so he would be jailed again with MacDonald.

On April 9, 1979, Manship went to a lawyer and advised him of where to find MacDonald’s body.

Manship had shot MacDonald once with a sawed-off .22 calibre rifle. MacDonald was found by police lying on his back with a pillow under his head and blanket over him. When police arrived, they arrested Manship and charged him with second-degree murder.

During the trial, Manship was represented by well-known criminal lawyer Edward Greenspan. Manship pleaded guilty to manslaughter on January 30, 1980 and was sentenced to nine years in jail.

 


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: James MacDonald
Age: 35
Gender: Male
Date of Death: April 8 1979
Manner of Death: Shot
Location: King Street West
Suspect Name: David Albert Manship
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, nine years

Victim Was An Assailant

Toronto Lawn Tennis Club, photo from TLTC
Toronto Lawn Tennis Club, photo from TLTC

Police were stymied by the murder of 47-year-old Donald Rochester, a bartender and handyman for the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club, on February 13, 1978. Rochester had worked at the Club at 44 Price Street for more than 15 years and was well-liked by his colleagues. He left behind a wife and two children.

Rochester was found at the exclusive private club by other employees arriving for work. He had been shot in the head. Police originally believed burglary was the motive, because he did not have a wallet. However, police later found the wallet with cash still inside, locked in the trunk of his car.

Rochester was wearing only an undershirt. Police speculated he may have been forced to remove his clothes to prevent him from giving chase to the thief. It was almost two years later that his 19-year-old murderer, 16 at the time of the shooting, would tell his father about being sexually assaulted and shooting the assailant.

Photo of murder victim Donald Rochester
Photo of murder victim Donald Rochester

The youth, Frederick Savage, and his father were turned away by a lawyer who advised they were under no obligation to talk about it. Eventually, Savage, who was described as “slow learner of borderline intelligence,” could not handle the nightmares and fears and confided in a teacher. The teacher put him in touch with another lawyer, who took Savage to the police to confess on January 22, 1980.

Savage was charged with second-degree murder. Police admit that without Savage coming forward, they would never have solved the case.

On November 21, 1980, Savage pleaded guilty to manslaughter and upon listening to the facts of the case, sentenced Savage to two years less a day in reformatory.

When Rochester tried to assault Savage, Rochester produced a gun to force Savage into “sexual acts.” During sex, Rochester placed the gun down and Savage grabbed it and fired a shot.

The first shot missed Rochester, but when Rochester tried to approach Savage, the youth shot him in the head, then walked up to him and shot him again twice, then sat down and cried.

Savage was also placed on three years probation, ordered to take psychiatric treatment, and prohibited from possessing firearms for the rest of his life.

 


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Donald Rochester
Age: 47
Gender: Male
Date of Death: February 13, 1978
Manner of Death: Shot
Location: 44 Price Street
Suspect Name: Frederick Savage
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 2 years less a day

From Toronto To Stroud

Photo of Ian Robertson and William Kingsley, during the trial. Photo by Toronto Daily Star
Photo of Ian Robertson and William Kingsley, during the trial. Photo by Toronto Daily Star

On October 29, 1953, when the body of a man was found in a field riddled with bullet holes and without identification, and before advanced forensics, it was the laundry marks on a shirt that helped police find the name of their victim.

Fred “Scotty” Cameron was a messenger for a Toronto investment brokerage firm and had worked for the company for years. He was 57 years old and, on the night of October 29, 1953, he was shot to death.

Cameron, who was shot five times, was found by Robert Cowan, a passing farmer who notified provincial police. Toronto police were enlisted to help the Ontario Provincial Police when the OPP discovered a TTC ticket in Cameron’s pocket.

Cameron was well-trusted by the brokerage firm to carry mail and other documents on their behalf to other brokerages, trust companies, and banks. However, he did not carry money. In fact, Cameron had not drawn his pay the evening before, and police said he had only $14. However, his pockets were turned out, and his watch was missing.

Initially, Cameron was painted as a ladies man who lived frugally, although the suit he was killed in cost $110. He never kept any identification on him, and did not talk about his past. He was described as “a shrewd, secretive and uncommunicative sort” but well-liked.

Cameron’s friend, John Quigley, told media “Cameron seemed more inwardly disturbed than ever – as though he had a premonition of a violent end. He would say to me, ‘If I’m ever in a tight spot, I’ll put up a fight.'” Quigley said he had a cheeky sense of humour and would help out people “from the Old Country,” Scotland.

Cameron lived on Isabella St., in what is now the Gay Village. He was married, but had been separated from his wife for 10 years and often referred to himself as a widower.

On November 4, police offered a $1,000 reward in Cameron’s death. On November 5, 1953, police took two Toronto men into custody, Francis Ian Robertson, 21 and William Stephen Kingsley, 19, but both were released after questioning.

The provincial pathologist Dr. Chester McLean said the bullet wounds were widely spaced apart, with one entering the neck and mouth, two in the left front chest, one in the back and one in the head. The last shot, in his forehead, killed him.

Police took Cameron’s clothing and personal effects found on him, including his light purple socks, a TTC streetcar ticket and two movie house ticket stubs.

Murder victim Fred "Scotty" Cameron
Murder victim Fred “Scotty” Cameron

On November 11 police returned to the Stroud scene and used a Canadian Army mine detector to recover parts of the .32 Savage automatic pistol used to shoot Cameron.

Kingsley was rearrested at “an old tenement” and charged on November 25. Robertson, who had a 17-year-old wife and a son, was rearrested the same day after returning from a his job. Police also confiscated Robertson’s father’s car. It had blood on the outside and in the trunk. Robertson had borrowed the car to “go North for Thanksgiving.”

On February 4, 1954, the two men jointly stood trial in a Barrie court room.

The Crown attorney said during the trial “How could two young men get a man of Cameron’s age to go for a ride in the country? It is sad but true that some men are afflicted with homosexuality.” Kingsley said in his statement to police that he and Cameron had previously had a sexual relationship for three years, making him 15 when it started. That relationship was later described by a defence attorney in court as “filthy, degrading acts of a weak mind. The filthy acts of a sex pervert were responsible for this tragedy.”

Kingsley said he shot Cameron once outside Karry’s poolhall at Queen and Yonge in Toronto, and he and Robertson placed Cameron into the trunk of the car. Cameron was still alive, pounding on the trunk and shouting. “Cameron was yelling in the trunk of the car, yelling and yelling and yelling. It was awful to hear him yell. It scared me,” Kingsley said.

Upon arriving at their destination, the two young men opened the trunk, and Cameron came out swinging. He was shot again. “We’ve got to make it look like a gang killing to get away with it,” Robertson said, directing Kingsley to go through Cameron’s pockets. It was Kingsley who, after taking the gun back, would shoot Cameron in the forehead.

“I’ll bet that’s the first time anyone shot a man for $14,” Robertson is alleged to have said to Kingsley shortly after the murder.

Robertson, who changed his story a number of times, said in court that Cameron was a pervert who “made advances” while they were driving north. The trio stopped because of car trouble, and he and Cameron got into a fight. “The next thing I knew there were several shots… Cameron’s falling down quite startled me,” Robertson said in court. He said he never shot the gun, only Kingsley did.

Photo of murderer William Kingsley
Photo of murderer William Kingsley

Crown prosecutor W.M. Thompson said Cameron “was a human being, entitled to live and it is not the law a man can be killed because he is a homosexual. He might have been cured or imprisoned, but death is not the answer.”

On March 17, 1954, it took the jury just eight hours to find the pair not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter, thus escaping the death penalty. Each was given a 20 year sentence.


Murder Village Map

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Fred “Scotty” Cameron
Age: 57
Gender: Male
Date of Death: October 29, 1953
Manner of Death: Shot
Location: Stroud, ON
Suspect Name: Francis Ian Robertson, William Stephen Kingsley
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 20 years before a chance of parole