||Five arrested in mass murder
Eight slain men were associated with the notorious Bandidos motorcycle gang
LONDON, Ont. — A prominent member of the Bandidos biker gang was one of five people charged with first-degree murder Monday after eight of its members were killed in a violent “internal cleansing” of the notorious motorcycle club’s ranks.
Leather vests bearing Bandidos colours were on display like hunting trophies as police confirmed that the grisly weekend find of eight bodies, all found stuffed inside abandoned vehicles in a southwestern Ontario farm field, was linked to the province’s biker gangs.
The surprise came when Ontario police identified both the victims and one of the alleged perpetrators as members of the Bandidos, a Texas-based gang that’s second in size only to the infamous Hells Angels.
“The victims of this crime have been positively identified and are associated (with), or belong to, the Bandidos motorcycle gang,” Ontario police Det.-Supt. Ross Bingley told a news conference.
“This is an isolated incident with ties to the Bandidos.”
Bingley confirmed that Wayne Kellestine, 56, a full-fledged Bandidos member whose rural home not far from where the bodies were found was raided Sunday by police, was among those arrested and charged.
Ontario police Det.-Insp. Don Bell noted that the victims had all been shot, and described the killings as an “internal cleansing” within the gang that creates little reason for public fear.
“I think this is an isolated incident and I wouldn’t expect to see any significant fallout from it,” said Bell, who stopped short of speculating about a possible motive for the killings.
“It should be noted that these men are criminals. They are not the motorcycle enthusiasts they portray themselves to be.”
Police found evidence to suggest that the eight men were killed ``somewhere within the vicinity of (Kellestine’s) property,” said Det. Insp. Paul Beesley.
“Evidence at the scene provided us with additional grounds.”
Police identified the slain “full-patch” Bandidos as George Jesso, 52, George Kriarakis, 28, and Luis Manny Raposo, 41, of Toronto; Francesco Salerno, 43, of Oakville, Ont.; John Muscedere, 48, of Chatham, Ont.; and Paul Sinopoli, 30, of Sutton, Ont.
Muscedere was believed to be the president of the Bandidos in Canada.
Also killed were Jamie Flanz, 37, of Keswick, Ont., described as a “prospect” member of the gang, and Michael Trotta, 31, of Milton, Ont., an associate member. Autopsies on the dead were expected to wrap up Tuesday.
Yves Lavigne, a biker-gang expert who’s written three books about the Hells Angels, said he believes the killings were more likely the result of some drug-fuelled vendetta than a premeditated, organized effort.
“This is what happens when you give drugs to white trash,” Lavigne said. “This is like the Trailer Park Boys meet the Sopranos.”
Indeed, the very notion of a biker war in Ontario makes no sense, since it would be in no one’s interest, he added.
“There has been a tradition to share the pie, and Ontario is a huge pie,” Lavigne said. “Everyone’s fat and rich because they don’t fight.”
All five of the accused were taken from the Kellestine house at around 7 p.m. Sunday night, Beesley confirmed. Witnesses reported seeing a group of people being marched out of the building around that time, their hands in the air.
Kellestine appeared in court Monday in St. Thomas, south of London, in a white prison jumpsuit with his hands cuffed to the belt. He had wild long grey hair and a moustache, and wore glasses and a large hoop earing in his left ear.
Also appearing in court Monday were Eric Niessen, 45, and Kerry Morris, 56, both of Monkton, Ont., Frank Mather, 32, of Dutton-Dunwich Township, and Brett Gardiner, 21, of no fixed address.
Niessen, who wore a long handlebar moustache and greasy brown hair that reached to his shoulders, was asked if he wanted the charges against him read aloud.
“I already know what they are,” he said.
All four were slated to return Thursday, while Kellestine’s next court appearance was scheduled for April 24.
Edward Winterhalder, a former Bandidos member who’s written a book about the gang called Out in Bad Standings: Inside the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, agreed that the prospect of a biker war in Ontario is ludicrous.
“We assure the public this is definitely not the result of biker gang wars or whatever — it’s just crazy,” said Winterhalder, who said he knew most of the victims well.
“You know how these things go,” he said. “I was expecting it, but it’s just kind of sad. It’s just one of them deals.”
Donny Petersen, a spokesman for the Hells Angels in Ontario, said he found the whole thing baffling.
“I can’t even relate to it. I don’t understand it. I can’t figure it out,” Petersen said. “The bike club I’m in, we’re all friends; we genuinely like each other.”
Lingering fears of further bloodshed or biker turf wars are unfounded, he added. “It’s never happened before in Ontario. I can’t ever see it happening again.”
As a senior member of the Bandidos in the U.S., Winterhalder presided over a so-called “patch-over” ceremony inducting members of the Rock Machine into the gang in early 2001. He said he personally appointed Muscedere president of the Canadian chapter.
Now, it’s likely there are fewer than a dozen members of the biker gang left on the streets in Canada, and the Toronto chapter is almost certainly wiped out, Winterhalder said.
The many media reports pinning blame on the Hells will give new life to the public-relations efforts of the world’s largest motorcycle gang, Lavigne warned.
“They could now hold a press conference and inform the public that they should be wary of any media attack on the Hells Angels.”
Indeed, the club’s Toronto website was awash Monday in expressions of vindication: Biker War Fear Unfounded, the main headline proclaimed.