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.