IONA, Ontario – The Bandido biker accused of slaying eight of his fellow motorcycle enthusiasts once belonged to another gang called the Loners — a fitting description of his personality and the quiet hamlets that surround the farmhouse where he was arrested.
The residents of Iona and other nearby townships — each with a few hundred folks, mostly from farming families who have tilled the land for generations — were still a bit shell-shocked Tuesday by the burst of violence typically reserved for the big cities of Toronto and Montreal.
Though they accept that their neighbor, Wayne Kellestine, was a member of the outlawed Bandidos gang, they find it hard to believe he actually pulled the trigger that killed the men who were found squished into cars parked in a field not far from his home on Saturday.
Kellestine and four others stand accused in the worst mass murder in Ontario history.
"Even if he is a Bandido, he was the nicest man, always respectful," said Iona resident Kim Baum, who helps out at the Holland House restaurant at the only intersection in town, where Kellestine sometimes stopped for coffee or a beer with his Bandido comrades.
"They never talked about deals when they were in here; I told him that in the beginning, that he could not talk about his deals in here, and he respected that," said Marty Angenent, the Dutch chef and owner of the Holland House, which also sells blue-and-white ceramic chatchkas from his native country. "We don't treat him like an outcast here."
Kellestine, 56, three other men and one woman were arrested Sunday and charged in court Monday with eight counts of first-degree murder, shortly after police announced that all the victims were "patch members" or affiliated with the Bandidos and lived in or around Toronto.
Police said Monday they believe the gangland slayings were part of an "internal cleansing" of the motorcycle gang. The eight dead men were original members of the Loners, another motorcycle gang from southern Ontario whose members eventually defected to the Hells Angels.
A few holdouts, Kellestine included, went on to create the Ontario Bandidos, calling themselves the "No Surrender Crew."
An unnamed source told the Toronto Star in Tuesday editions that the killings were due to the refusal of five of the victims to follow orders to go on a "national run" to Winnipeg to carry out enforcement and connect with other bikers. The men were called to a meeting place in the Shedden area where they were systematically executed, said the source.
But the police are trying to assure residents that the biker wars that terrorized Montreal in the early 1990s — claiming some 160 lives — has not found a new battlefield in the rural Ontario community that grows mostly soybean and corn, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Detroit.
Investigators were expanding their search for evidence Tuesday in the ditches of the highway where the bodies were found. Forensic experts wrapped in white sterile suits also were rummaging through Kellestine's farmhouse, where neighbors say he lived with his girlfriend and 6-year-old daughter.
The only member of the Bandidos among those arrested for the murders, Kellestine was no stranger to violence or a jail cell. The one-time head of another motorcycle club called the Annihilators, Kellestine was charged in 1991 with shooting a fellow biker. The charges were dropped when the victim refused to talk with police.
In July 2002, he pleaded guilty to 22 weapons charges and served two years behind bars.
Julian Sher, an investigative journalist who has covered the biker wars and just published "Angels of Death: Inside the Biker Gangs' Crime Empire," in the United States, said the people of Iona should know that any Bandido is a bad man, no matter how friendly he appears.
"These are people who will stop to help old ladies on the highway; some mass murderers were considered nice people, too," said Sher in a telephone interview from Vancouver.
He said that with the killings, the Bandidos are now defunct in Canada, no doubt to the glee of their sworn enemies in the Hells Angels. When asked whether he believed the murders were some sort of U.S. Bandido directive, Sher said it was too early to tell.
"You know that the Texas Bandidos are watching very carefully," he said. "That doesn't mean they sanctioned it. But what we do know is that they were embarrassed by the poor showing of their subsidiary and they have to be hurting today, because in the biker wars, image is what counts."