Toronto

Alleged serial killer victim Dean Lisowick remembered as protective, 'sweet guy' and fixture of Gay Village

Dean Lisowick is now known as one of the victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur — but to those who knew him for decades in the Gay Village, he's remembered as a "sweet guy" who stuck up for fellow sex workers.

'He was very street savvy, so it just baffled me that he of all people would be a victim,' friend says

Dean Lisowick is one five victims police believe were killed by a serial killer targeting men in Toronto's Gay Village. (Provided by Nicki Ward )

Dean Lisowick is now known as one of the victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur — but to those who knew him for decades in the Gay Village, he's remembered as a "sweet guy" who stuck up for fellow sex-trade workers.

"If he saw someone being harassed or something like that he was always the first one to come to the rescue," said M'shel George, a former sex-trade worker. "He was very street savvy, so it just baffled me that he of all people would be a victim."

On Monday, McArthur was charged with three additional counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Lisowick and two other men.

The Toronto landscaper already faced charges for allegedly killing Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman, who both disappeared in 2017. None of the charges has been proven in court. 

If he saw someone being harassed or something like that he was always the first one to come to the rescue.- M'shel George, knew Dean Lisowick

Unlike the other alleged victims, Lisowick was never reported missing. Police believe the homeless man was killed in 2016 or 2017.  

George said she first met Lisowick decades ago, and worked alongside him on the streets of the Village on-and-off over the years. She said he was "thoughtful and very caring."

"Finding out it was Dean, I'm like 'oh my god,' because so many of our numbers have vanished from the industry and we just assumed they moved on," George told CBC Toronto.

Some like George and Matthew McGowan have moved on. McGowan also knew Lisowick from the Gay Village. They met in the late nineties and, like George, McGowan considers Lisowick a fixture of that community.

Earlier this week police seemed to disagree. 
Bruce McArthur has been charged with the first-degree murder of Majeed Kayhan, top left, Soroush Mahmudi, top centre, Dean Lisowick, top right, Andrew Kinsman, bottom left, and Selim Esen. (Toronto Police Service)

On Monday, Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga said Lisowick and one of the other victims, Soroush Mahmudi, don't fit the profile of the other men McArthur is charged with killing, who went missing from the Gay Village and were associated with the neighbourhood.

It now seems Lisowick did fit the profile, while Mahmudi remains more of a mystery.

Mahmudi 'had a great sense of humour'

Brett Morrison remembered Mahmudi as an easy-going jokester who liked to go camping and play soccer.

The two men were friends for about a decade while they worked together at an automotive body parts factory in Barrie. 
Soroush Mahmudi went on a camping trip with Brett Morrison and some friends in 2003. (Brett Morrison)

"He liked playing pool. A bunch of us would always go out after work for beer and wings," Morrison told CBC Toronto. "I think everyone who came across him liked him."

Morrison said Mahmudi came to Canada as a refugee from Iran when he was about 20. As far as Morrison knows he didn't have any family in Canada until he met his wife here. 

Morrison said Mahmudi left the factory in 2008, and worked as a taxi driver in Barrie for a while before moving to Toronto to be closer to his wife's family.

"When he left Barrie he just kind of disappeared," said Morrison. "He didn't really keep in contact with anyone."

Mahmudi was last seen in August 2015, near his apartment building on Markham Road in Scarborough. Police say his family reported him missing.

"When he left Barrie he just kind of disappeared." - Brett Morrison, old friend of Soroush Mahmudi

Investigators have not provided any details on how Mahmudi and Lisowick might have known McArthur.

McGowan said he still has trouble thinking of Lisowick as a victim.

"Dean had some mental health issues and he wasn't a very trusting person," McGowan told CBC Toronto. "It just surprises me that this person could have got the drop on him." 

McGowan hadn't seen Lisowick in two years, since he moved out of the neighbourhood, but said everyone who spent a long time in the Gay Village knew him as a "sweet guy."

Including those who lived nearby.

Mita Hans didn't know Lisowick by name but said she was always running into him in the area.

"He was just a really kind man eager to help out," said Hans, who ran an informal food program for the homeless at Allan Gardens. "A couple of times he'd help me set up the food tent."

Hans told CBC Toronto she last saw Lisowick in April 2016.

"We were at Allan Gardens and just playing some music and him and another fellow were dancing with us," said Hans.

When she saw Lisowick's photo and heard he was one of McArthur's alleged victims, Hans got very angry.

"These were people that we saw in the community," said Hans. "Monsters pick on those they think society doesn't care about."

The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto will be holding a candlelight prayer vigil Sunday night for the victims of McArthur.


Nicole Brockbank can be reached at 416-205-6911 or at nicole.brockbank@cbc.ca.

About the Author

Nicole Brockbank

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Nicole Brockbank is a reporter for CBC Toronto's Enterprise Unit. Fuelled by coffee, she digs up, researches and writes original investigative and feature stories. nicole.brockbank@cbc.ca