VANCOUVER — United Nations gang hitman Cory Vallee was convicted Friday of conspiring to kill the notorious Bacon brothers and murdering one of their closest friends.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Janice Dillon said the Crown had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt that Vallee was brought in to the UN as a hitman, and that he was one of two shooters who killed Red Scorpion Kevin LeClair outside a Langley strip mall on Feb. 6, 2009.
“The decision to kill LeClair was planned and deliberate, with time to assess the situation,” Dillon said. “Cory Vallee was a member of the conspiracy to kill members of the Bacon group. LeClair was a target with a price on his head. Vallee was at the Thunderbird Centre intending to kill the LeClair target and he achieved his goal.”
LeClair’s father sobbed when Dillon pronounced the guilty verdict. The small, high-security Vancouver courtroom was packed with police and prosecutors who had worked on the case.
The brazen daylight murder at a busy mall was part of a bloody turf war between the UN and the Red Scorpions that escalated when popular UN member Duane Meyer was shot to death in Abbotsford on May 8, 2008.
The UN hunted their enemies across the region, watching their hangouts, recording licence plates and circulating their photos.
Dillon noted that the four key Crown witnesses, known as A, B, C and D due to a publication ban, were all former UN members and “unsavory” characters.
But she said some of their testimony was corroborated by video surveillance, intercepted conversations, and other evidence gathered by police during the massive investigation.
In convicting Vallee of murder, Dillon said she relied specifically on the evidence of witnesses B and C, who testified about being with the hitman the day LeClair was shot.
B testified that he met Vallee at a Tim Hortons near the Thunderbird Mall hours before LeClair was gunned down.
“Vallee showed Witness B an AR-15 gun that was in the back passenger area of (his vehicle),” Dillon noted.
Surveillance video from the Tim Hortons confirmed B’s testimony about meeting Vallee, Witness C and another man named Ismailaj Kreshnik at 1 p.m., Dillon said.
Vallee’s lawyers had argued that C was actually one of the shooters and that Vallee left the area after the Tim Hortons meeting.
But Dillon said she had “concluded that Vallee remained as it was his job to do.”
Vallee, Witness B and Kreshnik “spotted LeClair in his truck and they followed him to where he parked at the Thunderbird Centre and then entered the Browns Social House restaurant,” Dillon said.
They contacted the other shooter, Jesse Adkins, and he met them, and then “they parked and waited.”
LeClair left the restaurant at about 4 p.m. and headed toward his Lincoln pick-up.
“Two shooters killed LeClair shortly after he got into the driver’s seat of his truck and tried to get away,” Dillon said.
A handgun and an AR-15 were left at the scene “along with a black duffle bag from which the machine gunman had removed the AR-15,” Dillon said.
She said witnesses to the shooting, as well as a mall surveillance video and the Tim Hortons video “establish a consistency between the appearance of the machine gunman and Cory Vallee.”
“Witness B described the getaway and a conversation with Vallee afterwards in which Vallee described a problem with the safety on the AR-15,” Dillon said.
Witnesses had testified that the gun seemed to jam at first.
“Vallee later told Witness C that the gun was awesome,” Dillon noted.
Vallee sold his black Caravan right after the shooting “because he believed that the van linked him to the LeClair crime scene,” she said.
Dillon said “the murder of LeClair was a contract killing.”
“While it was not established that Vallee did receive money for the killing of LeClair, it was intended that he would receive payment.”
The key witnesses and other evidence in the case proved that Vallee was also part of the plot to kill the Bacons from Jan. 1, 2008 to Feb. 8, 2009, Dillon said.
“Vallee was introduced to high-level members of the gang by (leader Clay) Roueche as ‘Frankie’ and given the role as a hitman in the search to kill members of the Bacon group. Vallee changed his nickname to Panther and participated in the search. He was given a UN ring for his service.”
Vallee received an automatic life sentence with no hope of parole 25 years for the first-degree murder conviction. He will be sentenced on the conspiracy conviction on June 28.
The two policing agencies that investigated the case — the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team — both said the verdict reflected the hard work done on the file.
“This was a long, complex and resource-intensive investigation,” IHIT Superintendent Donna Richardson said. “I would like to acknowledge the dedication and tireless efforts of investigators from IHIT and CFSEU-BC as well as our numerous domestic and foreign partner agencies that contributed to this investigation.”
CFSEU Chief Officer Kevin Hackett said the convictions came because of the “sustained cooperation, hard work and persistence of IHIT and CFSEU-BC members.”
“Officers and support staff from numerous agencies have also assisted over these past seven years,” Hackett said. “The result should also serve as a reminder to those who threaten our communities with gang and gun violence, we will not rest until they are held to account.”