A high-profile trial is underway for two men accused of killing of a notorious Manitoba gang leader.
Sean Michael Heickert has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, while Kevin Denny Moose has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. Their case began Monday in Thompson and is being heard by a judge alone, not a jury.
Bekim Zeneli was gunned down in November 2007 inside his Thompson apartment in an apparent power struggle over control of the lucrative northern Manitoba drug trade. Zeneli was the founder of the LHS (loyalty, honour, silence) gang.
Heickert and Moose were described by police as associates of the Hells Angels who were competing for lucrative drug profits with LHS at the time. They weren’t arrested until October 2008 following a lengthy police investigation.
In a strange twist, Heickert’s name surfaced days after the slaying -- as a victim of an apparent murder plot. His brother, James Heickert, and Thompson residents Dean Gurniak and Stanley Lucovic were intercepted by police planning Heickert’s death. James Heickert was a full-patch member of the Hells Angels chapter in Oshawa, Ont. The trio later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and received lengthy prison sentences under a joint agreement between Crown and defence lawyers.
"There are no good guys in this conflict. They’re all villains," federal prosecutor Chris Mainella told court at the sentencing hearing. "Trying to assess the virtue in the Thompson drug trade is likened to trying to pass out speeding tickets at the Indy 500."
Sean Heickert was back in the news in August 2008 after being shot in Thompson and medivaced to Winnipeg with serious injuries. No arrests were ever made in that attack.
Court documents obtained by the Free Press revealed police had listened in on a detailed plan to kill Zeneli just two days before his death, but never warned him about the apparent threat. Many of those wiretap recordings are expected to be played at court.
Undercover police agent Scotty "Taz" Robertson told several gang associates inside a Pembina Highway hotel room he would take out Zeneli for $20,000. Robertson was paid $650,000 to infiltrate the Hells Angels during the year-long undercover Project Drill probe that resulted in 18 arrests, including Manitoba Hells Angels president Dale Donovan and full-patch members from Ontario and British Columbia.
Zeneli was described by his rivals as a "terrorist" who was pushing the Hells Angels out of Thompson and needed to be stopped. Police also recorded detailed discussion about killing Sean Heickert, who was working with Zeneli at the time. Talk of killing Zeneli began at the start of Project Drill in December 2006. Police sent Zeneli a warning letter, but took no further action, such as charging any of the men who had discussed the conspiracy.