The eight men found slaughtered in a Southwestern Ontario farmer's field on Saturday, their bodies stuffed into four vehicles, were all full-fledged members or associates of the Bandidos biker gang and were shot dead in an "internal cleansing," provincial police said yesterday, allaying any immediate prospect of a gang war.
Four men and a woman -- one full-patch Bandido and four associates -- were arrested Sunday night after a lengthy police standoff outside the nearby farmhouse of one of the accused.
The five appeared in court in St. Thomas yesterday afternoon on multiple charges of first-degree murder.
The Hells Angels -- the Bandidos' sworn enemies -- and other motorcycle gangs appear to have had no role in Ontario's worst gangland slaying, police told a news conference in London, Ont., where two Bandidos motorcycle vests were prominently displayed.
"I think this is an isolated incident and I wouldn't expect to see any significant fallout from it," said Ontario Provincial Police Detective Inspector Don Bell, who heads the combined forces Biker Enforcement Unit.
"There's nothing to indicate that there's anything outside the Bandidos --it's simply internal cleansing."
The farmhouse, 10 kilometres from where the bodies were discovered in Elgin County, near St. Thomas, is the home of Wayne Kellestine, 56, a full-patch member of the Bandidos with a long criminal record encompassing several local motorcycle gangs and a history of erratic, violent behaviour.
"He's a guy who if you were to meet him, the hair on your neck would stand on end," said a police source who has had extensive dealings with Mr. Kellestine. "This is one scary individual."
Arrested with him 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.
Witnesses reported seeing them being led from Mr. Kellestine's farmhouse with their hands raised. Police said yesterday they had been "very co-operative."
Six of the eight dead were identified as full-patch Bandidos: George Jesso, 52, George Kriarakis, 28, and Luis Manny Raposo, 41, of Toronto; Francesco (Frank) Salerajno, 43, of Oakville, Ont.; John Muscedere, 48, of Chatham, Ont.; and Paul Sinopoli, 30, of Sutton, Ont.
Mr. Muscedere was believed to be the president of the Bandidos in Canada, whose sole official Canadian chapter in Toronto comprised -- until Saturday -- just 12 members. It has no clubhouse and usually held its meetings in members' homes.
Mr. Jesso worked as a driver for Superior Towing & Storage Ltd. in Toronto; his truck was one of the vehicles at the death scene.
"All I know about George is that he worked every day and I never had a problem with him," said Superior Towing owner Danny Creatura.
"He's a real upstanding guy. He never drank, never did drugs, never went into bars or strip clubs. . . . For the last 10 years that he's worked for me, he's never been trouble."
Also killed were Jamie Flanz, 37, of Keswick, Ont., described as a Bandido "prospect," or second-rung member, and Michael Trotta, 31, of Milton, Ont., an associate.
Their bodies were undergoing forensic examination last night at the coroner's building in downtown Toronto.
The eight people may have been shot at several nearby locations before being brought to the field and left in the three cars and tow truck in which they were found, OPP Detective Superintendent Ross Bingley said.
Police would not speculate on whether the "cleansing" stemmed from a power struggle, revenge or an encounter that unexpectedly turned bloody.
"We're just 48 hours into this thing," Det.-Supt. Bingley said.
In the past, there was a dispute between Bandidos factions in Canada and its parent organization in the United States, but that appears to have been resolved peacefully, Det.-Insp. Bell said.
Asked whether the victims were held hostage before being shot, Detective Inspector Paul Beasley noted only there are two grounds for first-degree murder charges: advance planning, or murder that takes place while a person is being unlawfully confined.
The three officers turned aside questions on whether other suspects are being sought or how many shooters might have been involved.
The strange manner in which Mr. Kellestine and the other accused are alleged to have killed the men -- shooting them, abandoning their bodies and the vehicles in an open field, then remaining in Mr. Kellestine's nearby house until the police arrived -- seemed to raise as many questions as answers.
"This all looks so incredibly stupid," another police source said.
A grizzled figure with a long grey ponytail, Mr. Kellestine has long been known for his unpredictable behaviour.
Before he joined the Bandidos about two years ago, he was a senior figure in the Annihilators motorcycle gang and later led a group called the St. Thomas Loners. In 1991, he was charged with shooting and wounding another biker.
More trouble came in 1999, as the Quebec-based Hells Angels prepared to expand into Ontario.
Mr. Kellestine was reluctant to participate in the "patch-over" that saw roughly 160 Ontario bikers become Hells Angels, which is what likely prompted two Hells Angels associates to try to kill him on Oct. 22, 1999, in an abortive drive-by shooting.
A search of his home by provincial police the next day turned up a variety of firearms, including three semi-automatic weapons, three rifles, a 12-gauge shotgun and ammunition.
He was slapped with 22 charges relating to firearms and possession of stolen property.
By 2002 he was a changed man, he told a London judge who sentenced him to two years imprisonment in connection with this "private armoury" and barred him from owning guns for the rest of his life.
After getting out of jail, however, he returned to the biker milieu and in the past year was often seen sporting his Bandidos colours and consorting with members of the Outlaws, the Hells Angels' only local rivals, police sources say.