After a life of crime, Johnny K-9 is dead
Suspect in sensational killing of local couple
A SUSPECT in the unsolved murders of an Ancaster lawyer and her husband was found dead Tuesday in a Toronto halfway house.
John Croitoru, known as Johnny K-9, died at the Keele Community Correctional Centre, a federal halfway house that takes only the most notorious and unwanted offenders.
Croitoru was charged by Hamilton Police in the cold-blooded 1998 murders of Lynn Gilbank, a criminal defence lawyer, and her husband Fred. They were shot in their home on Postans Path in Ancaster in the early-morning hours of Nov. 16.
“One of the suspects in the Gilbank case is now dead,” confirmed Staff Sgt. Steve Hrab, who has led the investigation for nearly 20 years.
“I was planning to speak to (Croitoru) in the near future because of the ongoing investigation in the Gilbank case.”
Correctional Service of Canada spokesperson Kyle Lawlor confirmed Croitoru, 53, “did pass” and the case is in the hands of the coroner, who was to do an autopsy Wednesday.
Lawlor said if Croitoru died of natural causes, no further action will be taken. If the cause was something else — an overdose or a homicide — a police investigation or coroner’s inquest would be ordered.
Croitoru’s wife, Tracy EdwardsKroitoru (Johnny learned only a few years ago his family name was actually
spelled with a K), said her husband of 10 years was found dead on his bed at about 12:30 p.m.
Weeping over the phone from her home in British Columbia, Tracy said she suspects the husband she has known for 26 years, died due to an ongoing respiratory ailment he received treatment for.
Just recently, in one of their daily phone calls, he said: “You know I’m dying, right?”
He asked to be buried with his mother and father in a Hamilton cemetery.
He leaves three children with Tracy: a 19-year-old son, Johnny, who has cerebral palsy; son Blaise, 15; and seven-year-old daughter Tia.
“We were waiting for him,” said Tracy. “He always had my back and he always loved me … I just lost my best friend.”
Tracy said her husband’s long criminal history stemmed from “the lure of easy money.”
The street name K-9 comes from Croitoru’s wrestling career, the pinnacle of which was when he had a WWF match against Hulk Hogan. Lore has it Croitoru took the name from the words on a cop car during one of his arrests.
In September, Croitoru gained statutory release from a British Columbia prison after serving time on a 13-year sentence for conspiring to commit murder and conspiring to traffic in cocaine and marijuana. He was granted credit for time served and his sentence was reduced to less than four years.
Statutory release is a non-discretionary form of legislated release, subject to supervision. If Croitoru had lived to March 29, 2018, his sentence would have expired and he would have been a free man.
The Gilbank murders were huge news in Hamilton and beyond as it became known police suspected Lynn was targeted because of her profession, specifically her role in securing witness protection for a drug mule who became an informant against the notorious Gravelle crime family. The homicides sent a chill through Canada’s legal community.
In 2005, Andre Gravelle was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Croitoru, known as an enforcer for the Gravelle family, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder.
The following year, the Crown withdrew the charges against both men, saying there was no likelihood of conviction.
Tracy said she and her husband discussed the Gilbank case many times. She is adamant he was not involved in their murders.
“He did not know that couple,” she said. “He had nothing to do with that. Because John knew Andrew (Andre Gravelle), police were trying to make that connection. It ruined our life.”
Croitoru moved to British Columbia and forged criminal ties there, becoming a member of the United Nations gang. He was arrested in May 2009 for conspiracy to commit murder for plotting to kill members of rival gang the Red Scorpions. In January 2011, he was further charged with first-degree murder in connection to a rival gang member and an attempt on his girlfriend’s life.
In 2013, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit murder and the first-degree murder charge was stayed.
“You and your co-accused targeted the individuals for murder in order to neutralize both the danger they posed and to consolidate their share of the Lower Mainland drug trade,” Parole Board of Canada (PBC) records say.
Parole records show Croitoru had initially requested to be released to Hamilton.
He even offered to wear an ankle monitoring device.
But because of his criminal ties to the city — he was president of the now defunct Satan’s Choice biker chapter here and has a long criminal history of violence and drug-related offences — he was refused.
The PBC went further, imposing a condition that Croitoru was “not permitted to be within the city limits of Hamilton.”
Even if the PBC had agreed to let Croitoru back into his hometown (he was raised in Dundas), no CSC halfway house here — or anywhere for that matter apart from the Keele Street facility — was willing to take him, according to parole records.
“File information notes that you have worked as an enforcer and debt collector for an organized crime family,” said the PBC. “And that you were the subject of a criminal investigation in a double homicide.”
Croitoru also served time for bombing the Sudbury police station.
The parole board summed Croitoru up this way: “You appear comfortable using violence.”
Tracy summed him up like this: “He was my best friend.”
Johnny K-9 appeared to be “comfortable using violence,” a parole board said.
John Croitoru, known as Johnny K-9, and his wife, Tracy Edwards-Kroitoru, share a kiss. “He was my best friend.”