Af­ter a life of crime, Johnny K-9 is dead

Sus­pect in sen­sa­tional killing of lo­cal cou­ple

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - SU­SAN CLAIR­MONT

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.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACY ED­WARDS-KROITORU

John Croitoru, known as Johnny K-9, and his wife, Tracy Ed­wards-Kroitoru, share a kiss. “He was my best friend.”

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