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.
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.
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.
Murder Village Map
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
On May 7, 1994, John Beverly “Bev” Wilson, 60, a well-known stage manager who once worked with the National Ballet of Canada, was found dead in the laundry room of his Eglinton Avenue West and Avenue Road apartment building. He was found in a large pool of blood, dead from a single stab wound.
Wilson, who also worked at the Bayview Playhouse Theatre, was expected to join friends that evening for dinner, but failed to answer his door.
“He was part of that older generation of theatre people, the old guard,” Peter Peroff, former owner of the Bayview Playhouse, told media. Wilson was known to leave the back door unlocked to allow late-night visitors to come in without disturbing other residents.
About a year after his death, David Christopher Mellish, 33, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. Wilson and Mellish, who was once a male prostitute, had a sexual relationship for about six years prior to the attack, and it included Mellish receiving pay and accommodation for sex. Wilson retired in early 1994 and told Mellish he had AIDS. Wilson continued to welcome Mellish into his home to do housecleaning for pay.
Mellish suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was found four times to be unfit to stand trial. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
On August 23, 1999, was sentenced to one day in jail with three years’ probation. He had already spent almost four and a half years in a psychiatric institution, and altogether including time awaiting trial, had served the equivalent of a nine-year sentence.
Murder Village Map
Name: John Beverly “Bev” Wilson Age: 60 Gender: Male Date of Death: May 7, 1994 Manner of Death: Stabbed Location: Eglinton and Avenue Road Suspect Name: David Christopher Mellish Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 1 day plus three years probation. With time served, approximately nine years total
Just before midnight on July 30, 1993, a trail of blood led tenants of an 80 Charles St. East apartment building to the viciously beaten body of Norman Bernard Rasky, 62, a retired dentist. Residents followed the blood trail from the lobby of one building to the underground locker room of another, adjoining building. He had been shoved into a basement locker. He was strangled, bludgeoned and stabbed more than 30 times.
Rasky was previously married, and had three daughters.
Police did not originally suspect robbery, but in less than a week, they had identified suspects. On August 3, police issued warrants for “two men, both white [who] are armed and considered dangerous.”
Terrence Allan Fitzsimmons, 29, and Donald Dara Hebert, 30, of 80 Charles St. East, were also wanted in connection with a two armed bank robberies at the same branch of Canada Trust on Bloor St. West, on July 27 and 29. Hebert worked at Sunquest Vacations for the previous three years.
Fitzsimmons had been released from Kingston Penitentiary before the murder, on December 31, 1992, after serving the mandatory minimum. He served six years of a nine-year manslaughter sentence for stabbing an inmate to death.
Fitzsimmons was under the supervision of a parole officer after being released. He was re-arrested in April, 1993 for violating the no-drinking provision of his release order and was released May 27. He left the Kingston area, and a warrant for his arrest was issued July 13.
Police believe the three men met in a local gay bar, and were quick to assure media and the community they did not believe Rasky’s slaying was linked to that of Jack Bell, who was found before police released the names of Rasky’s murder suspects, beaten to death in his home.
Community members provided tips to police regarding the names of the suspects. Police said both Fitzsimmons and Hebert were also gay.
They believed Rasky met and began staying with Hebert in apartment 103, 80 Charles St. East, where Hebert had been living for about a year. Rasky had recently been locked out of his own apartment for allowing homeless men to live with him. .
On August 4, Hebert was found beaten and stabbed to death in a derelict and boarded-up Red Barn restaurant on Bank Street in downtown Ottawa, which was rumoured to be full of transients and squatters. Fitzsimmons had murdered his accomplice.
A day later, Fitzsimmons walked into a police station in Ottawa and turned himself in for both the murder of Rasky and of his best friend Hebert, as well as the bank robberies. Fitzsimmons said, “It’s got to stop. I’m tired of killing people.”
Montreal police also wanted to question Fitzsimmons on the weekend robbery and murder of a cab driver, Fernand Talbot.
It appeared Hebert and Fitzsimmons robbed a bank twice, killed Rasky, and robbed and killed the Montreal cab driver, before Fitzsimmons killed Hebert, all between July 27 and August 4, 1993.
In June, 1994, Fitzsimmons pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the killing Norman Rasky and, a week later, pleaded guilty to killing Hebert. Both were life sentences. He pleaded guilty in July in Montreal to the killing of Talbot.
On March 30, 1995, Terrence Fitzsimmons was found dead, hanging in his cell at the Kingston Penitentiary.
Murder Village Map
Name: Norman Bernard Rasky Age: 62 Gender: Male Date of Death: July 30, 1993 Manner of Death: Stabbing, strangulation, blunt force trauma Location: 80 Charles St. East Suspect Name: Terrence Allan Fitzsimmons, Donald Dara Hebert Conviction & Sentence: Fitzsimmons was convicted of second-degree murder and received life in prison. Hebert was murdered by Fitzsimmons prior to arrest
On March 24, 1991, Michael Henry Vadeboncoeur, 42, was stabbed to death in his home at 7 Hilltop Road. Vadeboncoeur was a former CBC radio comic called Boncoeur. He was found with multiple stab wounds in a blood-splattered apartment. A 16-year-old youth arrested two weeks later and charged with first-degree murder in his death, and a 15-year-old was co-accused.
Both youths could not be named due to the restrictions of the Young Offenders Act. However, the 16-year-old was later tried as an adult and his name was released to the media during trial: Adam Blake Harris. The 15-year-old was not named.
Harris was arrested at a C.M. Hinks treatment centre in Clarksburg. He was a resident at C.M. Hinks, a centre for “disturbed children,” later to become part of the SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health. Like Harris, the 15-year-old was also absent without leave from the treatment centre.
Harris and Vadeboncoeur once had a sexual relationship, and the two teenagers created the plan to rob Vadeboncoeur.
Police said robbery appeared to be the motive for the slaying: Vadeboncoeur’s Honda motorcycle, which was stolen, was later found at Jarvis and Parliament Streets. Other property was taken.
Vadeboncoeur bled to death after being stabbed in the neck. Harris had turned 16 just three weeks prior to the murder.
The victim’s “most precious possession – his life – was taken from him by the accused on more or less a whim,” said Justice Nicholson McRae during the February 22, 1994 sentencing trial. The Crown prosecutor said it was a “senseless killing of a talented and caring person who is deeply missed by his family and friends.”
The defense offered no evidence, although it was brought up at trial that Harris had been receiving treatment since his adoption at the age of 3. The judge found it was Harris who did the actual stabbing.
Harris was found guilty of first-degree and sentenced to life in prison. He was ordered to serve 7 ½ years (5 years is the minimum permitted for youth tried in adult court) before being eligible for parole. Because Harris spent nearly three years in pre-trial custody, he would be able to apply for parole as early as 1999. His first two years were to be served in a provincial reformatory and then he would be sent to a federal penitentiary.
The 15-year-old was earlier found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to incarceration and probation totaling three years.
Well-known B.C. cartoonist Lynn Johnston, who had become friends with Vadeboncoeur as a teenager, named the Patterson son Michael, after Vadeboncoeur. Johnston was upset that, at the time of the murder, much of the media focused on Vadeboncoeur’s sexuality rather than his accomplishments and personality. In memory of Vadeboncoeur, Johnston had one of her cartoon strip characters, Lawrence, come out as gay. “Well, Michael, this is for you.”
Murder Village Map
Name: Michael Henry Vadeboncoeur Age: 42 Gender: Male Date of Death: March 24, 1991 Manner of Death: Stabbed Location: 7 Hilltop Road Suspect Name: Adam Blake Harris, and an unnamed 15-year-old male Conviction & Sentence: Harris was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 7 ½ years. The unnamed youth found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to incarceration and probation totaling three years.
Grade 8 teacher Peter Lawrence Ager was 1985’s fifty-fifth homicide of the year. He was killed December 14, 1985, and found a few days later after a neighbour who noticed newspapers piling up in the apartment building hallway, and notified police.
Ager, 31, was last seen attending a party at the Westbury Hotel and may have arrived home to his Carlton St. apartment at 2 a.m. on the Saturday. Ager was stabbed in the left lung after struggling with someone in the apartment. Money was missing.
17-year-old Brian Joseph Chakasim, who originally could not be named under the Young Offender’s Act but who was eventually tried as an adult, turned himself in a month after the murder and was charged with first-degree murder. Media noted this was the fourth gay teacher to be murdered in two years.
Chakasim and Ager had met a few weeks previously and had begun to socialize together.
The court acknowledged that it was not known if Chakasim and Ager had sexual relations, but it was known that Ager was asleep while Chakasim was awake watching television and playing with a knife. Chakasim went into the bedroom, stabbed the bed several times and then stabbed Ager in the back and arm. He stayed in the room for some time after the murder.
Chakasim was 18 when he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. A psychiatric report said he “remains a real hazard to the community in general and particularly to anyone immediately around him who might frustrate his needs.”
Murder Village Map
Name: Peter Lawrence Ager Age: 31 Gender: Male Date of Death: December 14, 1985 Manner of Death: Stabbed Location: Carlton St. Suspect Name: Brian Joseph Chakasim Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, 15 years
Thirty-six-year-old Diane (Brian or Bryan William) Edwards was not the only person attacked when someone broke into a house at 45 Badgerow Ave. at 4:30 in the morning on October 21, 1979. Micheline Ferland, 35, Rosemary Doohan, 30 and Casey Doohan, 6, were also beaten. Edwards was the only one who died.
Edwards, whom police described specifically as a transvestite (and who may have been scheduled for gender reassignment surgery a week later) was brutally attacked with a butcher knife and baseball bat. The bat was later found in an alley two doors away. The knife was found in the home.
“He was after Diane in particular,” said Ferland. He said he was going to kill “the gearbox,” she said. Gearbox is a derogatory name for a gay man. Ferland said she and Doohan tried to prevent the attack. “Three of us ended up in hospital and one of us is in the morgue.”
Edwards, who was asleep on the couch at the beginning of the attack, was stabbed in the heart and severely beaten with the baseball bat.
Gregory Thomas Cooper, 25, also known as Robert Douglas Anderson, was arrested shortly after the murder, and charged with second-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.
At trial, psychiatrist R. Wood Hill testified that Cooper experienced a “command hallucination” telling him to kill, but there was never a clear motive for the murder. After the initial attack, Cooper drank a beer and attacked Edwards again, who was still alive. He then slashed Edwards’ throat and left. Cooper had consumed about 20 bottles of beer prior to the killing.
On May 27, 1980, Cooper was found not guilty by reason of insanity on all charges and Justice John Osler sentenced him to be confined indefinitely at a maximum security hospital. His sentence will be reviewed annually.
Murder Village Map
Name: Diane (Brian or Bryan William) Edwards Age: 36 Gender: Female Date of Death: October 21, 1979 Manner of Death: Blunt force trauma, stabbed Location: 45 Badgerow Ave Suspect Name: Gregory Thomas Cooper also known as Robert Douglas Anderson Conviction & Sentence: Not guilty by reason of insanity, confined indefinitely at a maximum security hospital, sentence reviewed annually