Excerpts

Abbreviated Introduction

THE SHEDDEN MASSACRE WAS NOT THE WORK of criminal masterminds. As a whodunit, the story of the murder of eight members of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club by fellow members in a barn outside London, Ont., could be told in a few sentences. But look at it as a whydunit, and it becomes a mystery of fascinating complexity. Not even outlaw biker insiders have an easy answer for this. Police, family members, even rival gangs can only shake their heads.

On the surface, the slaughter is patently absurd. In order to gain control of the club in Canada, the killers destroyed it. Instead of expediting their dreams of wild freedom and rough-hewn glory, the crimes quickly landed the ambitious Bandidos in prison. It was as though the killers were fighting for a bigger share of nothing. An agonizing irony is that several of their victims secretly wanted to quit the club anyway, but stayed on under the threat of violence. All they would have had to do was hand in their patches, and all the men who converged on Wayne Kellestine’s blighted farm near the hamlet of Shedden on the night of April 7, 2006 – both the betrayers and the betrayed – would today be leading the lives they dreamed of. But some shared underworld code doomed them all. Because the unfolding of this tragedy is so pointless, the why is that much more poignant.

During the more than three years of interviews and trial coverage to prepare The Bandido Massacre, I often thought of the irony of how many rules it takes to run a club devoted to freedom and life outside the law. In the end, the Bandidos were as bound by rules as the rest of us, perhaps more so. As I typed what appears here, I couldn’t help thinking of the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody,” where he notes everyone, barbers to presidents, inevitably ends up serving someone or something. He could have added outlaw bikers to his list.

Perhaps the best explanation I could find for the carnage that came to light in Shedden comes from the writings of cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker. He wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Denial of Death that much of what men do – from fathering children to attempting to produce timeless art to death-defying acts of heroism – is an attempt to win some illusion of immortality. Becker argued men routinely join groups where they can feel uplifted by shared heroic dreams, and which promise an intoxicating rush of power and heroism. Some join sports teams, political parties, faculty clubs, fraternities or religious sects, while some write books. Others, like the men who met at midnight at Kellestine’s barn, join outlaw motorcycle clubs.

Chapter 1

Church

It is now dead midnight.

Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.

Richard III, Act 5, Scene 5

Kill ‘em all, let God sort it out.

Sign in Wayne (Weiner) Kellestine’s window

JAMIE (GOLDBERG) FLANZ DIDN’T SUSPECT A THING when the surveillance car slipped behind his luxury sport utility vehicle as he drove out of Keswick, north of Toronto. With him in the grey Infiniti FX3 was Paul (Big Paul) Sinopoli, a gargantuan full-patch member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, and when Big Paul was around, it was hard to notice anything or anybody else, since he all but blocked out the sun.

Flanz had just been a prospect member of the Bandidos, the lowest rung on the club’s ladder, for six months. His lowly status meant he was required to be on call for round-the-clock errands like fetching hamburgers and cigarettes or chauffeuring full members like Big Paul. Prospective members like Flanz generally performed such grunt work without complaint, in hopes that they too would someday be allowed to wear a “Fat Mexican” patch on their backs to announce that they were full members in the second-largest motorcycle club in the world, behind only the Hells Angels.

Given their difference in rank, it made sense that Flanz had the chore of driving Big Paul to the emergency club meeting at Wayne (Weiner) Kellestine’s barn in tiny Iona Station (population 100) in rural southwestern Ontario on the evening of Friday, April 7, 2006. Club meetings were called “church,” “holy night,” “the barbecue” or “dinner,” and attendance at this particular gathering was mandatory, much to Big Paul’s chagrin. Weiner Kellestine’s barn was a couple hours’ drive from the Greater Toronto Area, where most chapter members lived, and Big Paul was only attending because senior members had made it clear that if he didn’t, he would likely be kicked out of the club.

The York Regional Police surveillance team had been quietly tailing Flanz and Big Paul for almost four months, since shortly after a man walking his dogs in neighbouring Durham Region on December 8, found the body of a small black male bound, gagged and badly burned in a forested area near the York-Durham Region Line. The grisly corpse was all that remained of small-time drug dealer Shawn Douse. The reason Flanz and Big Paul were on the police radar was a simple one: the last time Douse was seen alive, he was stepping out of a cab late on the night of Saturday, December 2, to attend a party at a townhouse in Keswick owned by Flanz.

In many respects, Goldberg Flanz seemed an unlikely target for a police surveillance crew probing a particularly grubby and violent murder. With his shaved head, goatee, pirate-styled hooped earring and muscled-up football lineman’s physique, Flanz looked intimidating enough. However, if you stopped to look into his eyes, the tough-guy effect quickly evaporated. Once you saw his smile and his eyes, his bruiserish appearance seemed nothing more than a carefully constructed persona, much like the performance of his namesake, the professional wrestler Goldberg. He was only playing tough.

Flanz was the rare Toronto-area outlaw biker who didn’t have blue-collar roots or a trade that involved soiling his hands. In real life, he had far more money and social status than his biker mentor, Big Paul. Flanz’s father, Leonard, was a senior partner in a prestigious Montreal law firm, specializing in insolvency cases, while Goldberg ran a small computer consulting business that provided on-site technical support to companies. While most of the Ontario Bandidos didn’t qualify for credit cards and lived on the brink of having their cellphones cut off, Goldberg owned a couple of properties, one for his real family and another as a hangout for his Bandido friends. His “Goldberg” nickname was a not-so-subtle reminder that he was Jewish, which also made him an odd fit in his circle of friends in the outlaw biker work. It was hard to think of any other Jews in Canada’s outlaw biker world, but there were hardcore anti-Semites, including the man they were going to visit that night, Weiner Kellestine, who once ran a gang called the Holocaust.

Weiner Kellestine was under two lifetime weapons bans, but remained an enthusiastic collector of Nazi memorabilia and military weapons, including machine guns, pistols, bayonets, knives and explosives. He encouraged rumours that he was a biker assassin by signing his name with lightning bolts resembling the insignia of Adolf Hitler’s Schutzstaffel, the Nazi murder squad more commonly referred to as the SS. Lest that not be unsettling enough, Kellestine surrounded himself with skinhead white supremacists and once cut a massive swastika onto his farm field with a scythe. He ran a business called Triple K Securities, a not-so-subtle nod to the initials of the Ku Klux Klan. Triple K offered “complete electronic privacy,” “telephone taps,” electronic sweeps for hidden recording devices and “discreet professional service.” When he gave Goldberg a business card, Kellestine wrote “SS” on the back with his phone number.

Many members of the Bandidos are considered by police to be criminals, but there was no sound business purpose for Flanz to be cozying up to the Bandidos. Truth be told, the Toronto Bandidos may have had the ambition, but most of the profitable crime was being committed by other groups, who worked hard at being criminals. Part of Goldberg Flanz’s appeal to the Toronto-area Bandidos was that they could borrow money from him. The attraction the Bandidos held for Goldberg was harder to define. He might be a whiz with computers and have solid business sense, but he saw himself as more complex than that, and something about the dangerous image of an outlaw motorcycle club appealed to him in a way he couldn’t fully understand.

Aside from Kellestine, most of Goldberg Flanz’s Greater Toronto Area biker buddies didn’t have a problem with the fact that he was a Jew. They might have cringed, however, had they read his profile in an Internet chat room, where he looked for love under the code name BigDaddyRogue. At the very least they would have teased him mercilessly, had they read how he wrote, using horrible grammar and spelling: “If you are stong [sic] enough to love you have more strength then most. I have that strength, the will, and the confidence to give what I expect in return. IM a diehard romantic who beleives in giving all of HImself when he finds that somone special.” He went on to describe himself as “a strong Man” who was searching “for something most seem to have forsaken … true love.” He didn’t exactly describe himself as an outlaw biker, but came close, writing, “This Man comes with a Harley.” He also said in the online profile that he believed in happy endings, writing of himself, “He is a romantic diehard who still believes in finding His fairy tale.”

There was no record of his friend and mentor Big Paul Sinopoli also being a diehard romantic, unless one counted an enthusiastic love affair with large plates of food and biker brotherhood. Big Paul was thirty years old, but still lived with his folks in a basement apartment of their ranch-style home, set among a thicket of trees in Jacksons Point, north of Toronto.

No one could remember Big Paul ever having a long-standing girlfriend, or any friends at all, for that matter, apart from other bikers. He was chummy with a few local Hells Angels, but kept this quiet, as Bandidos and Hells Angels were supposed to be mortal enemies. A one-time security guard and salesman at a sporting goods store, Big Paul dabbled in selling drugs, but didn’t make enough money at it to move out into a place of his own. Those who knew him appreciated his quick, easy sense of humour and apparent absence of ego. Those qualities made his bulk less threatening, and some women who knew him called him “the big teddy bear.” Once, he pointed to a black Bandidos T-shirt that was tightly stretched across his abdomen, smiled broadly and asked biker cops who were standing nearby, “Does this make me look fat?”

Privately, Big Paul was extremely insecure about his massive weight, estimated at somewhere on the hefty side of four hundred pounds. He had been teased about it since his childhood, when he emigrated to Canada from his birthplace of Argentina. He had occasionally talked wistfully about returning to South America to rediscover his roots, but his more immediate concern was shedding a couple of hundred pounds to stave off what seemed to be an inevitable heart attack. Although Big Paul was a full member of an outlaw motorcycle club, he wasn’t particularly interested in motorcycles, and still hadn’t paid off his second-hand Harley-Davidson. He was rarely seen on it, since it was in no better shape than Big Paul. Perhaps he also knew he would look like a bear in the circus riding it.

While Big Paul didn’t love motorcycles, he revelled in his version of the biker lifestyle, which offered massive men like himself the prospect of respect, in addition to ridiculous nicknames like “Tiny” rather than the “Fatso” or “Hey you” they might hear in the outside world. A Bandidos patch had a way of covering over some pretty glaring imperfections. As fellow club member Glenn (Wrongway) Atkinson noted, “How many guys that weigh four hundred pounds get laid that often?”

That evening, Goldberg Flanz, Big Paul and the police surveillance team snaked their way south down Highway 404, west on Highway 407, and then onto Highway 401. When the Infiniti pulled close to the town of Milton, northwest of Toronto, the York Regional officers peeled off, leaving the pursuit to a team of five officers from neighbouring Durham Region. Those officers were in a minivan and tow trucks and took turns travelling in front of and behind the Infiniti, making them hard for the bikers to pick out, even if they had been looking.

The surveillance team lost sight of the Infiniti for almost half an hour, before finding it again at an Esso station just west of Woodstock at 9: 30 p.m. The bikers were none the wiser, and when the officers spotted Goldberg once again, he was talking with two other men. A police officer pumped gas into his tank nearby as the two men got into a silver Volkswagen Golf. Flanz didn’t bother to fill his tank as he also drove away. The Volkswagen was already familiar to the Durham Region officers working on Project Douse, and they knew it was registered to Luis Manny (Chopper, Porkchop) Raposo, a full-patch member of the Toronto chapter of the Bandidos, who grandly called themselves the No Surrender Crew. Chopper was with another man they would later learn was Giovanni (John, Boxer) Muscedere, Canadian president of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club.

Chopper Raposo was a different sort of biker than Big Paul or Goldberg Flanz. Even though he was considerably smaller than the other two men, his eyes could take on a glassy, crazed quality, and at those times he looked like a man who would shoot first, and often. Chopper Raposo could be painfully polite and respectful, especially on the phone, but whenever he was photographed in biker social settings, he always seemed to be grinning dangerously and giving someone the finger.

It was a hard-edged image for a forty-one-year-old who still lived at home with his parents, in the upper floor of their brick home in Toronto’s Kensington Market area. With its big-screen television, glass chandelier, full bathroom and kitchen, Chopper’s place seemed like a tony urban loft, and it didn’t hurt things that his parents paid for his motorcycle insurance as well. Chopper was a good-looking man, and there had been a number of women in his life, but none rivalled his mother for strength or love, although no one would dare call Chopper Raposo a momma’s boy.

Raposo held the rank of el secretario, or secretary-treasurer, of the club’s Toronto chapter, the only full chapter of the Bandidos in Canada. Despite his druggy demeanour, there was no doubt that he took Bandido club business extremely seriously and personally. That night, his briefcase contained club paperwork, including a membership list with the nicknames of all of the No Surrender Crew, as well as “Taz” and “D,” referring to Michael Sandham and Dwight Mushey of Winnipeg. There was also a chart showing who owed what in terms of club dues, and a printout of an insulting email he had recently received from Taz Sandham, president of the probationary Winnipeg Bandidos chapter. Also in Chopper’s briefcase was a loaded sawed-off shotgun, which looked like a pirate’s oversized pistol. Club rules forbade such weapons at “church” meetings, but some instinct told Chopper he was justified in carrying hidden and deadly firepower this night.

Boxer Muscedere had agreed for the meeting to be held at Kellestine’s barn, even though it was an inconvenient drive for the Torontonians. The No Surrender Crew didn’t have a clubhouse to call their own, and Kellestine had pushed hard for the meeting to be held in his barn. Boxer and Kellestine had been friends for decades, and Boxer was loyal to a fault where his friends were concerned. In Boxer’s world view, Kellestine was his brother, warts and all, and nothing trumped brotherhood. Boxer could sense Kellestine was tense about something, but didn’t seem too concerned. Kellestine was often tense about something. Unlike Chopper Raposo, Boxer went unarmed to the farm that night.