Thursday, April 29, 1999

Sam Pazzano

p. News 5.

Killer claims insanity in 3 hooker murders

A North York man accused of murdering three hookers in a one-night shooting spree has admitted the killings but will argue that he's not criminally responsible because he's insane, a superior court judge heard yesterday.

Marcello Palma told his psychiatrist that he wanted to kill "street people and scum" in '94 and '95, Crown attorney Christine McGoey said.

She read an agreed statement of facts to Justice David Watt that indicated that Palma, now 33, began seeing a psychiatrist in '91 because of marital problems.

Palma has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder. If he's found not criminally responsible, he will be sent to Penetanguishene Hospital where he would stay until a psychiatric panel decides "that he's no longer a danger to society," his lawyer Eddie Greenspan said.

Palma was still seeing his psychiatrist on May 20, 1996 when firecrackers were set off to celebrate Victoria Day.

On that noisy night, Palma gunned down Brenda Ludgate, 25, and transvestite prostitutes Shawn Keegan, 19, and Thomas "Deanna" Wilkinson, 31, with a .357 Magnum loaded with hollow point bullets.

All three were shot at point-blank range with Supreme Expanding Talon bullets that haven't been sold to the public since 1993. These bullets mushroom upon impact, inflicting far more damage than regular ammunition, court heard.

Palma's estranged wife, Rosa, said he "sounded upset and suicidal" after inquiring whether she had a private investigator following him on the night of the killings.

The air conditioning contractor once told a friend that he planned to commit suicide by touching a live wire to make it appear like an accident, said McGoey.

Palma became enraged after a phone conversation with his girlfriend Claudia Taylor. He was frantic. I saw him react in a way that I've never really seen before," a statement quoted a friend as saying.

Palma had visited prostitutes earlier and had sex with transvestite hookers, court heard.

Palma picked up Ludgate, who was working the streets, in his Nissan truck and drove her to King-Bathurst Sts. area. He changed his mind about fellatio, said McGoey. When she insisted that she perform the act, he struck her. He pulled her out of the passenger door. She screamed, "No," but Palma killed her.

Palma propositioned Keegan in the Homewood Ave.-Carlton St. area and executed him with two head shots.

Wilkinson was killed by a single gunshot wound to the head in a nearby parking lot soon after.

The case was adjourned until May 25 when a date will be set to call an expert witness.

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