Calgary

'Another stone killer off the streets,' says mother of slain CFL player as murderer convicted

A Calgary man is guilty of murdering Stampeders player Mylan Hicks, who was fatally shot outside a nightclub where the team had been celebrating a Saturday night win.

Stampeders' Mylan Hicks shot and killed outside Marquee Beer Market in 2016

Nelson Tony Lugela, 21, left, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Mylan Hicks, 23. (Crime Stoppers/Calgary Stampeders)

A Calgary man has been found guilty of murdering Stampeders player Mylan Hicks, who was fatally shot outside a nightclub where the football team had been celebrating a Saturday night win.

On Monday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Keith Yamauchi convicted Nelson Lugela, 21, of second-degree murder which comes with an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years. 

A sentencing hearing will take place in May and prosecutors Gord Haight and Tom Spark say they'll be seeking "a substantial step up "from the minimum" 10 year period.

Lugela killed Hicks outside the Marquee Beer Market in Calgary in 2016.

Hicks's mother, Renee Hill, yelled at her son's killer as he was escorted out of the courtroom by sheriffs: "For what, Lugela? For what?"

"Another stone killer off the streets," she continued outside the courtroom.

Wearing a shirt bearing her son Mylan Hicks' photo, Renee Hill speaks with reporters outside the courtroom after Nelson Lugela was convicted of murder. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

The senselessness of the killing was a sentiment echoed by the prosecutors who spoke after the decision was handed down. 

"Clearly it appeared that the offender was — to use one of the player's descriptions — looking for trouble that night and he eventually found it," said prosecutor Gord Haight. "Unfortunately, Mr. Hicks paid the price over really what amounts to nothing."

Hicks was shot in the chest and the abdomen in the early hours of Sept. 25, 2016, outside the bar, where 15 to 25 members of the team had been celebrating a last-minute victory over Winnipeg.

Earlier in the night, two groups of people — the killer, his two friends and some Stamps players — argued over a spilled drink. Hicks was nowhere near the altercation. 

Later on, outside the club after it closed, tensions ramped up again and Lugela shot Hicks as he was running away from the gunshots.

"​Mr. Hicks was either on the ground or falling when the second bullet hit," said Yamauchi.

CCTV footage shown in court during the December trial shows a man with a gun who witnesses identified as Nelson Lugela. (Court exhibit)

In convicting the killer, Yamauchi noted identity was the crucial issue.

In his finding that the shooter was indeed Lugela, Yamauchi did not rely just on eyewitnesses. The judge also considered in-car police cruiser video and witnesses who picked out Lugela from a photo lineup. 

Video evidence presented at the trial shows a man in a white shirt carrying something in his right hand that "is consistent with the shape of a handgun," noted the judge. 

Additional support for Yamauchi's decision came from Darwin Concepcion, who was with Lugela the night of the killing and was a Crown witness. He testified Lugela told him he had shot someone and believed his victim would not survive. 

Concepcion helped lead police to the weapon, which was discarded in a recycling bin near the nightclub.

Although defence lawyer Alain Hepner argued Lugela was too drunk to form the necessary intent for murder, the judge disagreed. 

Calgary Stampeders' Derek Dennis witnessed his teammate's death. After Nelson was convicted, Dennis said he hoped the guilty verdict gives Mylan Hicks' family closure. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Teammate reacts

In a written statement to CBC News, Stamps offensive lineman Derek Dennis said he hopes the guilty verdict brings closure to the family of his "beloved teammate."

Dennis was at the Marquee club the night of the shooting and witnessed his friend being shot, testifying that "Mylan hit the concrete face down."

Shortly after Lugela and his friends took off, Dennis — who was being taken to police headquarters to give a witness statement — spotted the killer and his friends a short distance from the crime scene.

"Mylan impacted so many of us in a short period of time and will always be remembered for the outstanding person he was, off the field as well as on it."

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.