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Three men guilty in Mississauga assassination of Hells Angel debt collector

Michael Deabaitua-Schulde’s killers were unaware he was under active OPP surveillance at the time of his March 2019 killing outside a Mississauga gym.

Hells Angels' biker Michael Deabaitua-Schulde, 32, seen here in a photo from an online fundraiser, was gunned down in Mississauga on March 11, 2019.

Three of four men accused of assassinating a Hells Angels debt collector in Mississauga have been found guilty of first-degree murder by a Brampton jury.

The jury returned its verdict 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 exiting a gym at a busy Mississauga plaza.

The jury, which began deliberations Wednesday afternoon, separately found Marc Issa El-Khoury not guilty in the killing.

Speaking to court Thursday, Superior Court Justice Deena Baltman explained that a first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, with no chance of parole for 25 years.

“That is the sentence that will be imposed,” she said.

During his closing address to the jury, prosecutor Brian McGuire argued that the men “acted as a team. They had one goal: That was the murder.”

“This wasn’t any botched robbery or collection, but a planned and deliberate murder,” McGuire said, adding that the killing had the hallmarks of a gangland-style murder. “These men were meant to be untraceable.”

At the trial, which started in October, court heard how the killers were unaware that Deabaitua-Schulde, 32, was under surveillance by police as part of an Ontario Provincial Police probe into his suspected involvement in an elaborate illegal gambling investigation, called Project Hobart.

On the day of his murder, OPP investigators followed the biker to 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. Police saw the biker running toward the gym after he was shot.

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

“Call 911!” he could be heard pleading on video that showed him running into the gym pursued by gunmen.

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

Issa El-Khoury, who testified at trial, was also found not guilty of the lesser included offence of manslaughter. At trial, his defence lawyer, Gary Grill, argued he had unknowingly got caught up in what happened after a night of drinking with Vilme, an acquaintance who offered Issa El-Khoury a ride to Toronto from Montreal.

Issa El-Khoury testified to being awakened in a Brampton motel room by Vilme the morning of the killing. The other man told him he wanted him to stay behind at the Motel 6 until his return, but Issa El-Khoury instead opted to go along for the ride that ended with Deabaitua-Schulde’s assassination.

“A sober Issa El-Khoury might have realized that he was being told that for his own good,” Grill said in his closing address. “Marc did not have any knowledge about what was to happen that morning.”

At trial, witness evidence showed that Issa El-Khoury was observed sleeping in the killers’ Hyundai Sante Fe in the vicinity of Rymal Road.

“That’s the guy, whose one role is to drive the killers away after the shooting?” Grill said. “He’s sleeping?”

Issa El-Khoury testified to later driving away from the scene with Vilme and two other people in the Hyundai. He said two of the people seated in the back got out and hailed a cab when the group got back to Toronto.

Issa El-Khoury testified that Vilme told him the following morning that somebody had died.

Both Vilme and Pallotta declined to address the court after the jury returned its verdict. Reyes chose otherwise, saying: “I’m not guilty of whatever people try to judge me of. Only God can judge me.”