Rocco Zito shooting death leads to murder charge against Domenico Scopelliti

Police have charged a 51-year-old man with first-degree murder after his father-in-law, an 87-year-old man with suspected ties to organized crime, was shot to death Friday.

51-year-old faces 1st-degree murder charge in Friday killing

Local media reports say the victim in Toronto's 7th homicide of the year is Rocco Zito, an elderly man with a long history in organized crime 1:45
Rocco Zito, shot dead at 87, was considered to be a longtime Toronto mobster. (Courtesy of Antonio Nicaso)

Police have charged 51-year-old Domenico Scopelliti with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his father-in-law, an elderly man suspected of having ties to organized crime in the city.

Scopelliti, of Toronto, surrendered to homicide investigators shortly after midnight Saturday, a few hours after he was named as a suspect in the Friday afternoon shooting at 160 Playfair Ave., a home near Caledonia Road and Lawrence Avenue West. 

According to police, several family members were in the home when the shooting took place.

The victim has been identified as 87-year-old Rocco Zito, reported to have been a longtime senior member of a crime organization with influence beyond Toronto.

Domenico Scopelliti, 51, turned himself to police early Saturday morning. (Toronto Police Services)

Antonio Nicaso, an author and organized crime expert, told CBC News that Zito was known to have connections to the Calabrian Mafia, which is referred to as the 'Ndrangheta.

The group has roots in Toronto dating back several decades and is considered to be among the most powerful crime organizations in the province. 

Zito immigrated to Canada in the mid-1950s, Nicaso said. He added Zito had ties to the New York, Montreal and Italy branches of 'Ndrangheta.

Nicaso added that Zito acted as an enforcer for Albert Agueci, who was involved in the "French Connection," smuggling heroin from Canada to the U.S.

'Rocco was a big shot'

In 1980, Zito was convicted of manslaughter in the beating death of a Toronto photographer who allegedly had ties to a ​known loan-sharking operation. Several years later, Zito was appointed the head of the Camera di Controllo, which is like a board of elders.

"He was an enforcer. He was a very violent man when he was young," said Nicaso. "Rocco was a big shot."

Scopelliti turned himself in after hearing his name on the news, according to police. He appeared in court on Saturday afternoon. His next court appearance has been scheduled for Feb. 12. 

Police arrived on the scene of the shooting quickly Friday, and in large numbers, according to a neighbour.

"There was quite a lot of police force here," Kevin Clark told reporters. "They came within minutes." 

The death marks the city's seventh homicide of the year. 

Police arrived on the scene quickly and in large numbers before surrounding the residence at 160 Playfair Ave. (CBC)

With files from The Canadian Press