Michael Deabaitua-Schulde, 32, of Mississauga, was shot dead shortly after 11 a.m., moments after exiting a gym at a busy Mississauga plaza on March 11, 2019.
The Crown alleges that four men on trial for first-degree murder formed a quartet of assassins who played various roles in an elaborate plot to kill a Hells Angels debt collector in Mississauga on March 2019, a Brampton Jury heard Friday.
During his closing address to the jury, Prosecutor Brian McGuire argued that the four men “acted as a team. They had one goal: That was the murder,” of Michael Deabaitua-Schulde, 32, of Mississauga, who was shot dead shortly after 11 a.m., moments after exiting a gym at a busy Mississauga plaza on March 11, 2019.
The men were unaware that Deabaitua-Schulde was under surveillance by police as part of a Ontario Provincial Police probe into his suspected involvement in an alleged elaborate illegal gambling operation. Deabaitua-Schulde was observed by police collecting and delivering packages to numerous individuals during the sting operation, called Project Hobart, the jury has heard.
“This wasn’t any botched robbery or collection, but a planned and deliberate murder,” said McGuire, who added that the killing had the hallmarks of a gangland-style murder. “These men were meant to be untraceable.”
On the day of his murder, OPP investigators followed the biker to Huf Gym, in Mississauga, where he did a routine workout. Police saw the biker running toward the gym after he was shot.
The Crown alleges that the two primary shooters were Marckens Vilme and Brandon Reyes, with Joseph Pallotta and Marc Issa El-Khoury serving as getaway drivers at two separate locations. All four are charged with first-degree murder.
“The two shooters was to ensure numerical superiority over their single target,” said McGuire, who added that Pallotta drove his co-accused to the scene of the murder, Huf Gym at the busy plaza at 700 Dundas St. E., near Cawthra Road, where Deabaitua-Schulde was captured on video leaving after his workout.
“The silver revolver that we say was used by Mr. Reyes, has six empty shells in the cylinder,” McGuire said.
Deabaitua-Schulde, 32, a known member of the Niagara Region arm of the Hells Angels, was shot six times at close range, while next to his vehicle and then while running back toward the gym for help after being approached by several people wearing dark clothing outside the gym.
“Call 911!” the bloodied biker gang member is heard pleading as he’s seen on video running into the gym, while his pursuers fire another shot into the facility.
The killers used an untraceable blue Honda Civic that had plates stolen only days earlier, said McGuire as he laid out how the plot was executed. Police found phone messages referring to where the Honda with stolen plates was left in Scarborough. The Crown alleges, Pallotta, who is caught on video filling up a gas can, torched the Honda after the murder.
Issa El-Khoury, driving a Hyundai Sante Fe, waited for the men at the rendezvous point on Rymal Road, Mississauga, with the aim of whisking the men away after torching the car, McGuire said. The men had originally gone to Deabaitua-Schulde’s Mississauga home to locate him, but he had already left for the gym.
The OPP surveillance team also spotted the Sante Fe, on the morning of March 11, when it first visited the vicinity of Deabaitua-Schulde’s Rymal Road-area home.
“They got caught because of two pieces of bad luck which tripped them up,” said McGuire, who added that Hells Angels are sometimes targeted by their underground rivals, although the Crown is unable to pin point who wanted Deabaitua-Schulde dead.
McGuire said the cars were connected to the murder when an OPP surveillance officer took a picture of the Sante Fe licence plates, after trailing the men in the Honda to the second meet-up point on Rymal Road, a two-minute drive from the shooting scene.
Police found a torched blue Honda Civic near Rymal Road and Tomken Road. Witnesses said the suspects fled the scene of the shooting in a Honda.
He said Issa El-Khoury, while making the men made their escape in the Sante Fe, evaded a trailing police officer to make it back to Toronto.
Police were able to connect the men to the vehicles because two Peel police officers out on patrol, by chance, decided to run the Quebec plates of the Sante Fe while it was parked in the lot of a Brampton Motel 6 the morning of the murder.
McGuire said all four men were inside the motel finalizing the execution, at that time.
“Bad luck!” McGuire said. “With these two pieces of information, the police were quickly able to locate the Motel 6 as the jumping off place for the plan.”
By using the videos of the men at Motel 6 and forensic evidence, “the four plotters were quickly arrested,” McGuire said.
McGuire said the plot started long before the shooting. The plates were stolen in Scarborough on Feb. 26. That same day a tracking device, placed on Deabaitua-Schulde’s Jeep, started logging the target’s whereabouts. The device was manually checked at least 140 times from Feb. 26 until the morning of March 11, the Crown said.
“It’s clear that Mr. Deabaitua-Schulde was being tracked,” McGuire said. Pallotta checked into the Motel 6 under a false name on March 7. “Now, the conspirators simply have to wait until he’s alone, and vulnerable, and shoot him to death.”
Defence teams for Vilme and Reyes, who were 28 and 24, respectively, at the time of the shooting, say the Crown has failed to prove the charge of first-degree murder. Both men were arrested by Montreal police a few days after the killing.
Lawyers for Pallotta, then 38, and Issa El-Khoury, then 26, also of Montreal, have also argued the Crown has not proven the charge against the two.
Vilme’s lawyer argued he only fired one shot toward the gym. Pallotta’s lawyer told the jury his client torched the Honda and served as a driver but wasn’t a gunman. Issa El-Khoury’s lawyer claimed he was just along for the ride with Vilme when the shooting went down.
Reyes’ defence team says he’s only an accessory after the fact because he helped Pallotta leave the city of Toronto, by purchasing a VIA train ticket.
The judge will give her final instructions to the jury next week.