Gunman who killed Ontario Mafia figure also shooter in 'targeted' Vaughan slaying, police say
The homicides are linked by the shooter's physical profile and a Honda Civic connected to both crimes
Homicide investigators believe the gunman who mistakenly killed a Greater Toronto Area woman last year also perpetrated the high-profile shooting death of an infamous Hamilton crime figure a few months later.
At a news conference on Tuesday, homicide detectives from the York and Hamilton police forces said that a number of characteristics link the shootings of Mila Barberi in March 2017 and noted mobster Angelo Musitano in May 2017.
The suspect in each shooting has a nearly identical physical profile and a black Honda Civic Coupe has been connected to both crimes, said Det.-Sgt. Jim Killby of York Regional Police. Similarly, a "sophisticated and extensive" surveillance operation by the suspect and associates preceded both homicides.
Barberi, 28, was killed while she sat, in the middle of the afternoon, in a BMW SUV outside a business in an industrial area of Vaughan, Ont. She was picking up her boyfriend, a 40-year-old man who police have declined to identify.
In that instance, Killby said, there were at least two people involved: the gunman and a getaway driver. The shooter arrived to the scene in a stolen Jeep Grand Cherokee. He then got out of the jeep, ran toward Barberi's car and opened fire, hitting her multiple times and wounding her boyfriend in the arm.
The gunman then fled the immediate area toward a black Honda Civic that had been parked nearby. The shooter and the driver both quickly left the scene. The Civic and Grand Cherokee were also caught "travelling in tandem" by security cameras just prior to the shooting.
Killby disclosed Tuesday that the shooting was indeed targeted at someone who was at the Vaughan business that day, though investigators are not sure who it was. Barberi and her boyfriend were shot mistakenly, Killby believes.
Musitano, 39, was gunned down a few months later while he sat in his pickup truck in the driveway of his home in Waterdown, Ont. His family was inside the house when he was killed.
Musitano was the son of Dominic Musitano, a longtime crime boss in Hamilton who had close ties to the Rizzuto crime family in Montreal. Both Musitano and his brother, Pat Musitano, served nearly 10 years in prison for their roles in the 1997 shooting death of Johnny Papalia — arguably Hamilton's most infamous Mafia figure — and one of his lieutenants, Carmen Barillaro.
Canadian organized crime experts have theorized that Angelo Musitano's death may have been retaliation for his role in Papalia's murder.
Earlier this year, police said that Musitano was "stalked" for several days before he was killed and that multiple people were involved. Hamilton homicide detectives previously released images of a stolen Ford Fusion used as the getaway car in Musitano's homicide. And earlier this month, they identified three other vehicles that were seen in and around Musitano's home before his death.
According to Hamilton police homicide Det.-Sgt. Peter Thom, investigators have recovered thousands of hours of surveillance video that shows the drivers of those vehicles interacting with one another in different areas nearby Musitano's house.
The driver of one of the vehicles — a burgundy 2006 Ford Fusion also used as the getaway car — alternated between that vehicle and a black Honda Civic Coupe.
Thom said he believes it was the same Civic used in both homicides.
A suspect in Barberi's shooting was described by police at the time as a man about six-feet-two and 250 pounds. He was wearing all black and had his face covered in security camera images that captured him in the moments before the killing.
A very similar looking individual could be seen running from the scene of Musitano's killing in a security camera video released for the first time Tuesday.
"Frankly, I don't think they counted on there being a great deal of video surveillance," said Killby.
Asked if investigators believe that the slayings are somehow related to an underworld feud, Killby would say only that he believes "there are organized crime groups at work here." He acknowledged, however, that that aspect of the ongoing investigations is still quite opaque.