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A man who was found not guilty of ordering the execution-style killings of a former Canadian boxer and his friend is looking forward to regaining a sense of normalcy in his life, his lawyer said yesterday.

Kept in custody for nearly two years, Manuel DaSilva, 53, had been charged with first-degree murder in the April 6, 2001, shooting deaths of former boxer Eddie Melo, 40, and Joao Pavao, 42. Both were gunned down in the parking lot of a Mississauga plaza.

Late Thursday night, a 12-person jury deliberated for only five hours before finding Mr. DaSilva not guilty of hiring a contract killer to slay the two men.

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"Obviously, Mr. DaSilva is relieved the ordeal is over and that he can restart his life with his family and community," said Brian Greenspan, Mr. DaSilva's lawyer. "He's very hopeful that his life will return to normal in a short period of time."

Throughout the two-week trial, Crown prosecutors argued Mr. DaSilva had hired Montreal hit man Charles Gagne to kill Mr. Melo because of a dispute over financial transactions between the two men.

Mr. Gagne, already convicted in connection with the slayings, agreed to testify against Mr. DaSilva in exchange for pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, instead of first-degree murder.

During his testimony, Mr. Gagne claimed Mr. DaSilva had hired him for $75,000 to kill Mr. Melo. He, along with banker Fernando Ribeiro, who admitted to having differences with Mr. DaSilva, acted as the Crown's key witnesses in the trial.

Mr. Greenspan countered the prosecution by arguing that Mr. DaSilva had been framed for the murders.

When delivering their verdict to Mr. Justice Ron Thomas, jury members concluded they couldn't believe the testimony of the two men.

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