Luciano Galasso on Toronto Homocides

•August 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I feel like everytime I read the mornings paper, whether physically or virtually, on the front page there is something about a homocide in Toronto or elsewhere. It’s not only upsetting but it’s getting to the point where I begin to question what type of society we live in. It seems like it’s always teens or young adults, usually between the ages of 15-30 who are either dead or suspects. My first question is, where are they getting these guns? Especially in countries like Canada which I thought had strong anti-gun policies? Many people will say their parents…but why on earth do their parents have hand guns? I’m going to go ahead and assume these guns are not hunting rifles. And yes, many of these homocides are due to stabbings and they usually happen in rather sketchy areas. Make smart decisions people. Don’t go out in sketchy neighbourhoods at night, alone. They need to put towers in parks and on city streets that have direct connections to the police and other emergency services to assist in keeping people safe, or more police cars need to be patrolling these areas. I am going to copy and paste an article below from the Toronto Star and provide a link to a map of Toronto’s homocides since 2005. It seems a lot more significant and scary when you look at the map.

1 killed, 5 hurt in shootings

Paramedics transport a shooting victim as a second wounded boy looks on. A 17-year-old was shot in the face and a 16-year-old in the back on Teesdale Place, near Pharmacy and Danforth Aves., around 6:45 p.m. Aug. 4, 2009.

Aug 05, 2009 04:30 AM

Precious Yutangco

Staff Reporter

A night of violence was capped with the city’s 34th homicide of 2009.

Just after 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, Toronto police officers and members of the Emergency Task Force raided a high-rise at 110 George St., near Jarvis St. and Adelaide St. E. after a man walked into St. Michael’s Hospital suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

Despite having emergency surgery, he was pronounced dead in hospital, said Staff. Sgt. John Spanton.

Spanton said the man was fleeing down the street when friends picked him up and drove him to hospital.

Officers arrested one man at the scene. There is no word yet on charges. Homicide detectives are taking over the case.

The death was the fifth person of the night who was shot.

Around 9 p.m., a 26-year-old man was taken to Sunnybrook Hospital after being shot in the face on Mount Olive Dr., near Finch Ave. W. and Martin Grove Rd. Despite his wound, he was conscious and breathing when he was found.

Three teenagers were shot in two separate incidents in the city earlier in the evening.

Dozens of parents and children ducked for cover as a shootout erupted between two groups of teens at an east end high-rise complex.

A 17-year-old was shot in the face and a 16-year-old boy was hit twice in the stomach in the incident at Teesdale Place, near Pharmacy and Danforth Aves. at about 6:45 p.m.

About two hours earlier before the Teesdale Place double shooting, a teenage girl was shot in the leg on Trethewey Dr. near Eglinton Ave. W. and Black Creek Dr.

Investigators have not ruled out whether a stray bullet may have hit the teen.

The interactive map can be found here

— Luciano Galasso


Luciano Galasso on the End of the Toronto Strike

•July 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Well folks, it has finally come to and end. Or at least it looks that way. Via went on strike and then quickly resolved their issues while Toronto Outdoor and Indoor workers took a lot longer to come up with an agreement. Although news outlets reported yesterday that the strike was over, if you looked around the streets today, it doesn’t appear that way at all. Even the mayor is telling you to hold off on your garbage a few more days and to not send your kids back as of yet. They say it may take until the weekend to get everything back to normal. As enraged as I was this morning walking down to get my morning coffee from starbucks (yes, im a sucker) and finding garbage still all over the streets and smelling terribly, this article helped me to get a little perspective on why we aren’t back to normal even though an agreement has been reached

Most services unlikely to start up again before this weekend at the earliest
Jul 28, 2009 04:30 AM

Daniel Dale

Donovan Vincent


Don’t put your garbage out on the curb just yet. And don’t even think about shipping the kids back to daycare this week.

Despite tentative agreements forged yesterday between the city and its striking workers, most municipal services are unlikely to resume until the weekend at the earliest. The city won’t release plans until after the deals are ratified.

Members of CUPE Local 416 and Local 79 will vote on their agreements tomorrow. Should they vote to ratify, city council will hold its own ratification vote Friday.

“It will take several days in many operations and program areas before the city can offer full service to residents and businesses,” city officials said in a news release. “For example, swimming pools must be cleaned and refilled, child-care centres must be reopened, cleaned and stocked with food, parks need maintenance and grass cutting, licence renewals and inspection applications must be processed, and many other matters must be addressed.”

City manager Joe Pennachetti said the city will provide “pages” of service resumption plans to the media and on the city’s website once the agreements are ratified.

Windsor’s 101-day strike ended Friday. Yesterday, community centres there opened their doors and garbage pickup began. Municipal pools and camps, however, were not expected to reopen before next week.

In 2002, Toronto rapidly returned to some semblance of normality after striking workers were legislated back to work on a Thursday in August. Island ferry service resumed the next day as ambulance service returned to regular levels and golf courses reopened; day camps and daycares reopened Monday; indoor pools reopened by Sunday, outdoor pools by Monday.

Street garbage bins and temporary garbage dumps were cleaned over the weekend; household waste collection began on the next scheduled collection day.

According to an unscientific sampling of Yonge St. pedestrians conducted yesterday, it is the city’s garbage situation that Torontonians overwhelmingly want resolved most quickly. But they will have to wait: temporary dump sites will continue to operate until further notice, said Mayor David Miller.

Miller urged residents to keep their trash at home for a few more days if they can. The cleanup of the temporary dumps will not take long, he said, but the process cannot begin until council ratification.

That approval cannot come quickly enough for Tanisha King, 9, or her grandmother Leanne King. Tanisha, a competitive gymnast, has missed a month’s worth of cancelled sessions. In the absence of municipal pools, her grandmother has struggled to entertain her.

“We go to the pool every day in summer,” said Leanne King.

“We went down to the beach, but it’s not very clean.”

The article can be found here

Luciano Galasso on Toronto Lately

•July 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I feel like everyday there is something about murder or death in the news media. There are the random acts of violence, gang violence, accidental drownings, car accidents and more. I remember hearing about the murder of Stefanie Rengel, I believe on New Years Day and it was sickening to think that a young boy and girl could murder someone. Their only motive? M.T’s jealousy of Stefanie’s previous relationship with her current boyfriend. According to those who knew M.T they said this was very shocking because she was such a good student and a good daughter. They also say that she shows no remorse for what she encouraged her boyfriend to do. Sending hate mail and threatening to break up with your boyfriend unless he kills his exgirlfriend…does that sound normal to you? I didn’t think so. The fact that her boyfriend agreed to do it shows that something was not exactly right with him either. I’m just glad they were caught and are being charged as adults.

Marina Jiménez

From Monday’s Globe and Mail Sunday, Jul. 26, 2009 05:06PM EDT

But Mr. Flumerfelt dismissed her apology as “an 11th-hour note” that tried to duck responsibility. The murder was calculated, he said, and executed over months “with the advantages and disadvantages carefully weighed.”

M.T. read a brief statement this month in court, apologizing for the lives she has ruined and taking responsibility for her part in Stefanie’s death. Her lawyer noted she wasn’t the one who carried out the act of violence.

The sentencing hearing for M.T., the Toronto teenager convicted of murdering 14-year-old Stefanie Rengel, was frightening for the portrait it painted.

The offender, now 17 and set to be sentenced tomorrow, is a very unusual killer. She comes from an intact, loving family, has no criminal history, excelled in school, babysits her 12-year-old brother and loves the family dog. In other words, she has none of the disadvantages of most juvenile offenders.

Instead her crime was motivated by lethal jealousy: She believed her boyfriend, D.B., liked Ms. Rengel, a beautiful, outgoing teen who had briefly “gone around” with him when she was 12.

In pages of coarse, rage-filled e-mails and text messages, M.T. commanded her boyfriend to kill Ms. Rengel. D.B. eventually went along with it: The 19-year-old pleaded guilty earlier this year to stabbing Ms. Rengel six times outside her Toronto home on New Year’s Day, 2008.

The question parents are left with at the end of this tragic tale is: How is it possible for a seemingly normal adolescent to present two such different personas – an obedient “goody-two-shoes” to her supportive parents who studied hard for tests and a heartless killer who spewed venom online against a wrongly perceived romantic rival whom she had never even met?

Identifying aggression, anti-social behaviour and even mental illness in teens can be difficult, experts say, because adolescents display such erratic emotions and do not have fully formed characters.

However, anyone reading M.T.’s e-mail would be alarmed by the level of violence it conveyed.

During the trial, the Crown entered into evidence more than 30,000 pages of instant-messaging transcripts between M.T. and her boyfriend, including many that revolved around the murder plan. In one chilling instant-message exchange in October, 2007, M.T. tells D.B. if he doesn’t kill Ms. Rengel, she will dump him.

Child psychologists say the anonymity of the Internet prompts many teenagers to call people “bitches and whores” and take on names such as “parking lot slut,” as they live out naughty fantasies and “try on” different personalities. They see social networking sites as “their” form of communication, beyond the realm of adults – and beyond the law.

However, having violent thoughts about their peers goes well beyond ordinary teenaged bravado.

“It’s hard to say where this kind of stuff comes from,” said David Wolfe, a psychologist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. “I see a lot of horrible names and stuff on the Internet. But saying ‘I want her killed’ is very unusual. This is definitely at the extreme end.”

A plan to carry out aggression on someone specific is not typical teenage stuff, agrees Ian Manion, executive director of the Provincial Centre for Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa. Online threats of violence should be investigated, he added.

Philip Klassen, a CAMH forensic psychiatrist, said in his report to the court that M.T. hasn’t shown remorse and sees herself as a victim. He described her three teenage relationships as intensely dysfunctional, marked by anger, rage and jealousy that point to an “escalating problem.”

M.T. is also bulimic, anxious and so insecure about her personal appearance that she wants plastic surgery for her nose and breasts.

He suggested she could have elements of borderline personality disorder, a condition characterized by unstable moods and chaotic personal relationships that is difficult to diagnose.

The defence’s psychiatric report concludes M.T. has no major mental illness, but is anxious, immature, volatile and obsessive. The report notes she made threats against other women, saying she wanted to “kill” her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends with a knife or gun –statements she says she never meant.

Outwardly, however, M.T.’s life was striking for its normality: Her parents bought her clothing and a computer, and took her to the movies and to a cottage. They went bike riding together and played board games. She is close to her mother, a nurse, although apparently hid her violent thoughts from her.

Dr. Manion, who isn’t commenting on this case specifically, notes that some teenagers raised in loving families choose not to follow the same guidelines as the rest of society. “I’ve worked with families with very good parents, but the child has no sense of right and wrong and cannot empathize,” he said. “Some people are very driven by their own needs and desires and cannot appreciate wrong. They have no moral compass.”

At the same time, parents can be alert to potentially disturbing patterns of behaviour in teenagers, including: a sudden change in sleeping or eating patterns; a loss of interest in hobbies, school or friends; and unhealthy levels of attachment to one relationship.

“Parents need to be concerned about the child who suddenly becomes a stranger,” said Sara Dimerman, a Toronto family therapist.

To guard against the abuse of social networking sites, Dr. Wolfe says, parents should keep the computer in a public room, and monitor teens’ use. They should check to ensure their children are not doing anything illegal, including uttering threats or sending out nude photographs of ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. “They need to know that what they send can come back and have a consequence for them,” said Dr. Wolfe, who specializes in prevention initiatives.

Crown prosecutor Robin Flumerfelt is seeking an adult sentence for M.T., with no parole for seven years. That means she would have a criminal record and would be monitored for life.

My condolences go out to Stefanie’s family. No one deserves to have to go through this.

— Luciano Galasso

Luciano Galasso on NASA, the moon landing & Canada

•July 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

As I was catching up on my daily news I came across an article about the first moon landing. As the 40 year anniversary of that first lunar landing has just passed it has recently been receiving a lot of attention. I won’t lie to you, I haven’t really paid a lot of attention to the articles. It’s not that I don’t think its a big deal or anything, but I’ve been learning about the landing since I started school as a small child. Then I read this article about Canada’s involvement, something that they didn’t teach me in school surprisingly. I think it’s safe to say without the Canadians mentioned in the article, the USA would not have had their famous lunar landing. That being said, it’s also great to read about positive stories in the news media. Stories like these make me proud to be Canadian.  Anyways, enough on my end, here’s the story:

Dakshana Bascaramurty

Last updated on Tuesday, Jul. 21, 2009 03:11AM EDT

Forty years ago, 17-year-old Ross Maynard tuned the TV in his Houston home to the event of the century: astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin bouncing across the moon’s cratered surface.

His father, Owen, stumbled into the living room during this landmark broadcast in a blue bathrobe, still groggy from his slumber.

The elder Mr. Maynard briefly glanced at the flickering screen with disinterest, and then shuffled to the kitchen table for breakfast.

It’s not the reaction one would expect from one of the top managers of the Apollo space program – the man who designed the lunar module “Eagle” that astronaut Buzz Aldrin piloted.

But Sarnia, Ont., native Owen Maynard was never one to make a fuss about his career achievements. And in turn, his name and the names of many other Canadians who worked at NASA for the Apollo program have been reduced to footnotes at best in the history of the moon landing.

Space exploration historian Chris Gainor published a book about the Canadian contributions in 2001.

“Did they get as much recognition as they should have? I don’t think so,” he said. “And in a few years they’re all going to be gone.”

Because the space race was an element of the Cold War, putting a man on the moon was a triumph the U.S. wanted to claim exclusively for itself, said Robert Godwin, space curator at the Canadian Air and Space Museum.

Canadian astronaut Dave Williams

The astronaut describes what the Apollo 11 moon landing meant to him as a teen watching it on a black-and-white TV (The Canadian Press)

During the early days of the U.S. space program, a team of engineers north of the American border – including Mr. Maynard – were at work on the design and construction of the Avro Arrow, a sophisticated interceptor jet fighter. When the federal government axed the program in 1959, Robert Gilruth, a pioneer of the American space program who later became the director of the Manned Spacecraft Center, flew to Toronto the next day. By the day’s end, he had hired 25 men to join him in Virginia. Seven more from the Canadian company joined his team soon after.

After Mr. Maynard transplanted his family to Virginia (and later to Houston), there was little time to adjust. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the goal to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. The pressure was on.

Mr. Maynard, with a decade of jet engineering experience under his belt, was hired as chief of systems engineering.

“He was probably the first person to put pen to paper for NASA for what a lunar module should look like,” Mr. Godwin said.

The younger Mr. Maynard remembers his father and his fellow Canadians working 12- to 18-hour days, six days a week. On Sunday, they worked 10 hours.

“All those guys were totally consumed by this mission,” he said. And the work environment was stressful.

After a fire killed three astronauts in Apollo 1 in 1967, an exhausted Mr. Maynard told his supervisors he’d stay with NASA for two more lunar landing attempts.

“His body was telling him ‘This is gonna kill ya,’ ” his son said.

The elder Mr. Maynard died in 2000. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Toronto in 1996 but will receive national recognition for his work Monday when he is posthumously given the Canadian Air and Space Pioneer Award. It will have been 40 years since the moment when two men emerged from Mr. Maynard’s lunar module “Eagle” – a moment when he was most concerned about what he’d have for breakfast.

— Luciano Galasso

Luciano Galasso on National News

•July 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This is going to be short and sweet. But on the 6:00 news and in many of the newspapers this week I have been reading about how Misha Barton was involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital because she was apparently a danger to herself and to others. I just find it sad that this is actually news. For example I saw this article today entitled Mischa Barton is Improving. It goes as follows

Mischa Barton is “making improvements” and plans a return to work nearly a week after she was escorted to hospital for an undisclosed medical problem.

Spokesman Craig Schneider says the 23-year-old actress is “still seeking treatment but making improvements.”

He said yesterday she planned to report to work on the new CW series The Beautiful Life later this month. The show, which stars Barton as a pill-popping supermodel, is scheduled to begin production July 31.

Los Angeles police say they removed Barton from her home last Wednesday for an undisclosed medical problem. The actress was reported to have been placed under an involuntary psychiatric hold.

Internet gossip sites have alleged that Barton was in the midst of a drug binge when worried friends called police. reports that producers of The Beautiful Life have begun putting a contingency plan together to replace Barton should she be unable to return.

This article came from The Toronto Star and can be accessed here. Really? That makes headlines? What about what is going on in Iraq or Afghanistan or at the very least how the earth quake that took place in Australia shifted New Zealand closer to Australia by something like 30cm? Or about how a little girl was taken today in Oshawa by a man driving a silver truck with an Ontario license plate that read 72B 381 (I’m unaware if she has been found or not). No offense Misha, but I don’t care. I’m rather sick of this infotainment

That’s all for now.

Luciano Galasso

Luciano Galasso on the Billings Murder

•July 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So over the past few days in the news I have been reading a few articles about the murder or as the newsmedia has been saying “slaying” of Byrd and Melanie Billings. This case interested me at first because it is tragic. Even more so because the initial findings were that it was purely for robbery. Byrd had two children from his first marriage and Melanie had two of her own and they had adopted 13 special needs children. Again, tragic that this happened to two people so willing to give to those who needed them most. They also believe that 7 or 8 people were involved with this break in and currently they are working on capturing them all.

Then the story becomes interesting for another reason. They now believe that it might have been a hired hit. But what makes the story even weirder is that in the article I recently read on (for the article click here) they mention something I thought was really strange:

Additional documents released Monday from the Florida Department of Children and Families show a bizarre attempt by Byrd Billings to copyright the children’s names and demand money from the department for their use.

A department attorney, Katie George, told CNN that every time the agency sent Billings a letter referencing the children by name, he would reply with an invoice demanding millions in copyright infringement. In one document released by the department, he demands $10 million in silver or federal reserve notes of equal value.

In a sharply worded letter in December 2005, another department attorney, Richard Cserep, wrote to Billings: “You reference a wide variety of law in connection with this claim” for damages.

“This includes copyright violations, trademark violations, contract violations, admiralty and maritime law, libel and the Truth in Lending Act,” the letter said. “At no time in any of your correspondence have you made a plain demand for damages under a clear and cognizable theory of liability.”

A handwritten note on the letter says that no further correspondence was received from Billings after that letter.

Weird no? Who tries to copywrite their childrens names? Does that mean if one of his children was name Luciano, everytime I wrote my name in a document someone would have to pay him? It seemed like he was a little off…or maybe that’s just me.

I’m going to keep reading up on this story and keep updating this post and let you guys know what ends up happening.

— Luciano Galasso

Luciano Galasso on Tori Stafford

•July 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’m not going to say a whole lot because the story speaks for itself. What I do want to say is that my sympathies go out to the friends and family of Tori and that I hope and pray that the remains are found to be hers so that they are able to bury their daughter and the nightmare can end.

Staff Reporters

A grisly discovery south of Mount Forest is of a child’s body that had been exposed to the elements for quite some time and police are “cautiously optimistic” it is the missing girl, Victoria Stafford.

The news, although not confirmed yet, is a relief “not just for the community but worldwide,” said her sombre father, Rodney Stafford.

“Everybody is holding their children a whole lot closer.”

New information led police yesterday to a wooded area with tall trees and rocks, said OPP Det. Inspector Anthony Renten. He wouldn’t elaborate on if the information that sent them to a spot away from the previous search area came from either of the two people charged in the death and disappearance in April of the 8-year-old known as Tori.

“We’re hoping the forensic evidence confirms our belief,” Oxford Community Police Chief Rod Freeman said today at a news conference at the cordoned -off area.

A hearse from Hendrick’s Funeral Chapel in Mount Forest drove away with the remains around noon.

“Since 6:04 on April 8, our main goal was to bring Victoria home,” said Freeman. “It will be satisfying to some extent to provide some closure.”

The officer who found the remains “was working with new information (that had) come to light,” said Renten.

“A lot of good police work is a hunch,” said Freeman. “The search revealed what we believe is very critical evidence.”

“We have a very strong case,” said Renten. “We are hopeful the forensic examination will give us more information to make that case better.”

Terri-Lynne McClintic, 19, and Michael Rafferty, 28, were arrested May 19 and are charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder.

McClintic was initially helping police with their search.

The remains have been taken to the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto “for further expert examination,” police said. Neither Freeman nor Renten would speculate on how long that would take.

OPP Sgt. David Rektor said this morning the remains were found in a remote place. “It’s definitely known to the people in this area only,” he said.

The remains were discovered about 15 minutes north of where the initial searches were conducted in the Guelph and Fergus areas.

Her voice breaking, Tori’s aunt, Rebecca Stafford Nichols, said this afternoon that police came last night to tell family they had come across a site that raised their suspicions. This morning, she said, they confirmed it was the remains of a child.

“This is not the ending we were hoping for,” said Stafford. And then, echoing her brother, she said: “But we’re not going to be spending a life time wondering, looking in every car, in every back seat, through every window and wondering, ‘Is Victoria there?'”

The girl’s grandmother, Dorreen Graighen, told The Star earlier she heard the news around midnight.

“I didn’t sleep well. You know when you have those feelings, your instinct. I just had this feeling (it was her).”

Rodney Stafford said he will bid his daughter goodbye at the end of his 3,400-kilometre bike ride across the country in honour of Tori, planned to raise money for Child Find Ontario, which works to find and protect missing children.

He was to leave Aug. 2 from Woodstock for Edmonton but the departure date now depends on the private family funeral for the little girl.

“I will say my goodbyes to Victoria when I get to the top of the mountain on my bike ride,” Rodney Stafford said shortly after 2 p.m. Rodney also thanked police and everyone who had offered their support.

Stafford Nichols, wiping away tears, said she has “a lot of memories to hang on to,” of Tori, most particularly a trip to Western Canada last year. Her message to the public: “Treasure our children now more than ever. Show them every minute, every day how much you love them.”

“I pray to God it’s her. Let us bring her back home to Woodstock,” said Woodstock resident Shirley Robillard.

“I think it’s good news. Everybody knew she is gone. This brings closure,” said another resident, John Davis, who was rattled by the news.

Tori was last seen leaving her school in Woodstock with a woman in a white coat. The young girl, whose disappearance captured international headlines, would have turned 9 on July 15.

Woodstock Mayor Michael Harding said the possible discovery of Tori’s remains will “re-open some wounds here (and) re-open a whole body of feelings that everyone will go through.”

Harding said he had no plans to contact Tori’s family.

“What they don’t need is a politician sort of hanging off them and I’ve chosen to keep my distance since it’s their issue more than it’s my issue,” he said.

This article was taken from To see the full story and a video click here.