Thursday, April 29, 1999

Philip Mascoll

p. B1.

Accused man admits he killed prostitutes court told

But he'll plead not criminally responsible, lawyer says

Marcello Palma admits he killed three Toronto prostitutes, but was not criminally responsible when he did it, his lawyer says.

During a two-hour killing spree almost three years ago, Palma killed Brenda Ludgate, 25, transvestite prostitute Shawn Keegan, 19, and transsexual prostitute Thomas 'Deanna" Wilkinson, 31, shooting them in the head with his legally owned .357 magnum.

Details of the grisly slayings are contained in a two-part agreed statement of facts read to a Toronto court yesterday by Palma;s lawyer, Edward Greenspan and Crown Attorney Chris McGoey.

Palma will plead not guilty, likely on May 25. "The defence is that he was not criminally responsible," Greenspan said last night.

The 33-year-old father of one was under a psychiatrist's care at the time of the killings, but still had six restricted weapons certificates and owned six firearms, including the revolver he used to kill the three prostitutes May 20, 1996 — the Victoria Day holiday. During several sessions with a psychiatrist. Palma said he wanted to kill people, particularly street people or "scum" according to the statement.

During sessions with the psychiatrist, which began in September, 1991, Palma talked of marital problems and admitted to having sex with prostitutes, transvestites and homosexuals, the statement said. Palma was familiar with the Homewood Ave. area where Keegan and Wilkinson were slain, it noted.

That May 20 afternoon, Palma — who was separated from his wife — became irate after receiving a call from his girlfriend. he rampaged around his air conditioning business office, punching and kicking things, according to the statement. He eventually used a hammer to attack vehicles and equipment belonging to other people with whom he shared the office.

Friends who witnessed the outburst convinced him to come with them to a golf driving range, where he became calmer after hitting balls for five or 10 minutes.

Then he threw the club down and said, "The hell with you, I hate this game," and drove off, the statement says. He visited his parents between 8 p. m. and 8:30, then left.

Admitted having sex with prostitutes

According to the statement of fact, in the middle of a thunderstorm, as the rest of the city set off celebratory Victoria Day firecrackers, Palma loaded his Sturm Ruger .357 with five illegal hollow-point bullets, took the handgun and a knife and drove off in his red truck.

At about 11 p. m. he picked up Ludgate in the King St. W. area and drove to the back of a lighting supply company, where she was to perform oral sex. Once there, Palma changed his mind and told her to get out of his truck. When she wouldn't leave, he hit her, then pulled her from the truck.

A resident of a nearby apartment building heard a scared voice shouting what sounded like "No!" before Ludgate was shot in the back of the head.

Palma admits killing prostitutes in 1996

Two days later, Palma confessed to a friend as they chatted in a coffee shop. "She wouldn't get out of the car and I popped her," he said, adding, "(Later) I did the other two."

When the friend asked "What other two?" Palma replied, "Yes, the transvestites," the statement says.

About 40 minutes after killing Ludgate, Palma picked up Keegan as he plied his trade, dressed as a woman. at Homewood Ave. and Carlton St.

A witness in a nearby apartment building saw Palma and Keegan struggling at the top of a stairwell to the parking garage. Palma pushed Keegan down the stairs, then shot him in the head, the statement says. But he was not dead.

Palma told his friends that as he left — putting up his umbrella to shield him from the rain — he saw Keegan "kind of getting up and shot him again."

A security officer alerted by residents of the apartment building found Keegan at 11:58 p. m. just before he died.

Just a few minutes later, Palma crossed paths with his third victim, Wilkinson, as he walked along Homewood Ave.

Moments later a resident heard a man call out "You bastard!" and then a gunshot.

Wilkinson's body was not discovered until 9 the next morning. He had also been shot in the head.

Palma remained in Toronto for more than a week after the killings before leaving for Montreal with his brother Frank.

While there, he went to a church where he spoke to a priest about his marital problems. Then on May 30, he legally purchased a Winchester rifle and a box of ammunition with a firearm acquisition certificate.

Some time before Palma continued on to Halifax, police issued a warrant for his arrest in the killings.

They became aware he was on the east coast after he checked out of one hotel and into another, using his American Express card. He was arrested June 1 while sitting on a Halifax wharf.

He was carrying eight firearm cartridges and a knife when arrested, along with a rosary given to him by the Montreal priest.

Search of hotel room yielded a rifle and several books

A search of his hotel room yielded a loaded rifle, several children's books and paperbacks, among them, the Celestine Prophecy, the Math Curse; Without Conscience and The Four Fundamental concepts of Psychoanalysis.

While in a Halifax jail, he spoke to a police officer about how the environment in the cells bred violence and suggested classical music might calm the prisoners down.

[Toronto '99] [News by region] [News by topic]

Created: March 28, 2000
Last modified: January 31, 2001
CSIS Commercial Sex Information Service
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710