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Chief Bill Blair speaks to the media during a press conference at Toronto Police Services headquarters in Toronto, Ont. Oct. 19/2011. (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Chief Bill Blair speaks to the media during a press conference at Toronto Police Services headquarters in Toronto, Ont. Oct. 19/2011. (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Wall of silence crumbled on accused killer of four, Toronto police say Add to ...

If police are right, Mark Garfield Moore is one of the most prolific and vicious killers ever to stalk Toronto, gunning down four men in three months and opening fire everywhere from school playgrounds to apartment building parking lots.

Most of the dead are people with no criminal past, leaving investigators at a loss to explain the senseless slayings. And it may have been this fact, combined with the 27-year-old’s apparent notoriety, that allowed police to collar him.

Members of the public were so outraged at seeing innocent people killed, they inundated detectives with tips, breaking the no-snitching rule that pervades the city’s toughest communities, sources said. This gives police hope they can finally breach the wall of silence that so often makes it impossible to solve crime in the neighbourhoods worst affected by them.

“I also know that these crimes can have a tremendous impact on the communities in which they occur, they cause people to become fearful, people to be afraid to go out and use public spaces,” Chief Bill Blair said Wednesday morning in announcing Mr. Moore’s charges, 56 in all.

Police said they also busted up a firearm-trafficking ring that was allegedly selling weapons to Mr. Moore, along with a drug-dealing operation based out of Greenbrae Circuit, a street of apartment blocks and townhomes in Scarborough where many of the shootings occurred.

Mr. Moore’s lawyer said her client only found out about the charges shortly before the police made them public, as he arrived from a jail cell to court on a different matter.

“He learned about it when he was brought to Scarborough court this morning, unannounced, to either himself or me,” said Cheryl Robb, adding that Mr. Moore will be pleading not guilty. “I’m very disappointed that nobody had the courtesy to contact me first.”

Mr. Moore is accused of taking part in numerous drive-by shootings, a holdup and other incidents involving guns, most of them during a brief period in the summer and fall of last year. Unfolding primarily in Scarborough and the Weston area, they include the attempted murder of a 28-year-old man in a laneway and the robbery of an Eglinton Avenue jewellery store where a clerk was shot.

The first victim to die was 27-year-old Jahmeel Spence, a father of two with no criminal record. He was returning home from buying juice for his children on the evening of Sept. 10, 2010, when someone shot him off Greenbrae Circuit. Police say it was a case of mistaken identity.

Three weeks later, on Sept. 29, Courthney Facey, 18, and Mike James, 23, were enjoying a night out on Weston Road when a black SUV rolled out of a nearby alley. Someone in the vehicle opened fire, killing both men. Neither Mr. Facey, a high-school student, nor Mr. James, an apprentice chef, had any prior contact with police. More than a year later, officers say they still have no idea why they were killed.

Police say the only one of Mr. Moore’s alleged victims he had a motive to kill was Carl Cole. The 45-year-old had allegedly become entangled in a dispute with Mr. Moore and, late in the afternoon of Nov. 24 was shot dead by two men in a parking lot on Greenbrae Circuit. The killers made off with his car, found abandoned the next day.

Six days later, Mr. Moore was charged with possessing cocaine and marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

He was back on the street when bullets rang out at a Richmond Street nightclub in March of this year. Arrested shortly after, he has been in custody ever since. It was then that investigators began to link the homicides and shootings the previous year.

Police used everything from wiretaps to surveillance to jailhouse informants to develop the case. Mr. Moore’s mother, Hyacinth Moore, had her house and car searched repeatedly.

On Wednesday, Ms. Moore did not respond to requests for comment. The families of Mr. Moore’s alleged victims were also quiet. They were informed of the charges just before the police news conference, which many attended, but did not speak with reporters afterward.

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