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Three men guilty of the Mississauga murder of Hells Angel debt collector

Three of four men accused of murdering a Hells Angels debt collector in Mississauga were convicted of first degree murder by a Brampton jury.

The jury returned their verdict on Thursday, convicting Marckens Vilme, Brandon Reyes and Joseph Pallotta of first degree murder in the March 11, 2019 shooting of Michael Deabaitua-Schulde, 32, who was killed moments after coming out of the hospital. a gymnasium in a busy square in Mississauga. .

The jury, which began its deliberations on Wednesday afternoon, separately declared Marc Issa El-Khoury not guilty of the murder.

Speaking in court on Thursday, Superior Court Judge Deena Baltman explained that a conviction for first degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

“This is the penalty that will be imposed,” she said.

In his closing remarks to the jury, prosecutor Brian McGuire argued that the men “acted as a team. They had only one goal: it was murder.

“It was not a robbery or a botched collection, but a planned and deliberate murder,” said McGuire, adding that the murder had the hallmarks of gangland-style murder. “These men were supposed to be nowhere to be found.”

During the trial, which began in October, the court heard that the killers were unaware that 32-year-old Deabaitua-Schulde was under police surveillance as part of an Ontario Provincial Police investigation into his involvement. alleged in an elaborate illegal gambling investigation called Project Hobart. .

On the day of his assassination, OPP investigators followed the motorcyclist to Huf Gym in the busy square at 700 Dundas St. E., near Cawthra Road, where Deabaitua-Schulde was filmed leaving after his coaching. Police saw the biker running towards the gymnasium after being shot.

Deabaitua-Schulde, a well-known member of the Niagara Region Hells Angels branch, was shot six times at close range.

“Call 911!” he could be heard pleading in a video which showed him running around the gymnasium being chased by armed men.

Prosecutors argued that Vilme and Reyes were the two main shooters, Pallotta and Issa El-Khoury serving as getaway drivers.

Issa El-Khoury, who testified at the trial, was also found not guilty of the lesser and included offense of manslaughter. At trial, his defense attorney Gary Grill claimed he unknowingly got involved in what happened after a night of drinking with Vilme, an acquaintance who proposed to Issa El-Khoury to get to Toronto from Montreal.

Issa El-Khoury testified that he was woken up in a motel room in Brampton by Vilme on the morning of the murder. The other man told him he wanted him to stay at Motel 6 until his return, but Issa El-Khoury instead chose to accompany the journey which ended with the assassination of Deabaitua-Schulde. .

“A sober Issa El-Khoury might have realized that he had been told this for his own good,” Grill said in his closing speech. “Marc had no knowledge of what was going to happen that morning.”

At trial, testimonies showed that Issa El-Khoury was observed sleeping in the killers’ Hyundai Sante Fe near Rymal Road.

“Is that the guy whose only role is to hunt the killers after the shooting?” Grill said. “He is sleeping?”

Issa El-Khoury testified that he then walked away from the scene with Vilme and two other people in the Hyundai. He said two of the people in the back got out and hailed a cab when the group returned to Toronto.

Issa El-Khoury testified that Vilme told him the next morning that someone had died.

Vilme and Pallotta both refused to go to court after the jury returned their verdict. Reyes chose the opposite when he said, “I’m not guilty of anything that people try to judge me for. Only god can judge me.”

Jason Miller is a Toronto reporter for The Star who covers crime and justice in the Peel region. Contact him by email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic