Five men convicted in three slayings in Greeks murder trial: Sentencing Thursday

Five men connected to a ruthless drug gang known as the Greeks have been convicted of three brutal slayings around Vernon after B.C.’s longest-ever jury trial.
A B.C. Supreme Court jury deliberated for a record 12 days before coming back just after noon Sunday to announce the verdict.
The 11 jurors found Peter Manolakos, Dale Sipes, Leslie Podolski, Sheldon O’Donnell and Douglas Brownell guilty for their roles in killing three men who had run-ins with the Greeks gang just before their deaths.
David Barry Marniuk, who delivered drugs for the Greeks, was beaten to death with a baseball bat, a hammer and a blowtorch because he had taken off with some cash and the gang’s cell phone in the middle of a shift in the summer of 2004.
Both Sipes and Podolski were found guilty of the first-degree murder of Marniuk. O’Donnell was convicted of second-degree and Manolakos was convicted of manslaughter in Marniuk’s death.
Thomas Edward Bryce was a rival drug trafficker fighting the Greeks for turf when he was also beaten with a wooden bat, then stomped, at a popular beach near Vernon in November 2004. He died 17 days later in hospital.
O’Donnell was convicted of second-degree murder in Bryce’s death, while the jury found Brownell guilty of manslaughter.
Ronald James Thom was shot to death on May 31, 2005 because Manolakos heard Thom may have provided police with information about the Greeks criminal activity.
Sipes, O’Donnell and Manolakos were convicted of the Thom’s first-degree murder, while Brownell was convicted of manslaughter.
Justice Bill Smart said the killers will be brought back to court Thursday for sentencing.
The four convicted of first-degree murder will receive an automatic life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years, while Smart will have to rule on Brownell’s term for two manslaughter convictions.
Smart thanked the jury for their service through 18 months of evidence, weeks of closing arguments and his own instructions, as well as 12 long days of deliberations.
Crown David Jardine, one of the senior prosecutors on the case, also expressed gratitude for the jurors’ commitment.
“We are extremely pleased and full of admiration for the work that the jury put in in18 months of service that’s over and above the call of duty,” Jardine said. “We are full of appreciation for the work that the jury put it.”
Some of the controversial key Crown witnesses at the trial cannot be named because of publication bans on any information that could identify them.
Defence lawyers for the accused attacked the credibility of the Crown witnesses, saying some of them were killers with lengthy criminal histories.
Crown lawyers said that despite the criminal records of some of the witnesses, jurors should not reject any of their testimony in its entirety.
Smart began his six-day charge to the jury on Nov. 7. The jury started their deliberations on Nov. 14 and generally met from 9:30 am to 7:30 p.m. with a one break for lunch.
Jurors heard that Manolakos led the deadly gang, named after his Greek heritage. Sipes, Podolski and O’Donnell were senior gang members, while Brownell was an associate who did drug deals with the Greeks.
Manolakos provided gold rings and vests to his members, who also had a tattoo of the word “ema” – which means “blood” in Greek – as well as the omega symbol.
And jurors heard that the Greeks had different ranks within the organization, including “runners” like Marniuk who worked the drug lines at the street level, “bankers” who would supply drugs to the runners and collect the profits, and “enforcers” who would mete out punishment to those who broke the Greeks’ rules.
They also listened to testimony of gruesome evidence about how Marniuk’s battered remains were taken out to a remote spot and set on fire. A former gang member testified that Manolakos wanted Thom’s bullet-ridden body left on a Vernon street as a warning to others not to cross the Greeks.
More than 100 Crown witnesses testified at the trial, which was held in the special high-security courtroom built for the Air India bombing case. Twenty-five lawyers were involved in the historic trial.
The RCMP put together a special task force to look into the gang’s activities in 2004 and 2005, resulting in arrests and charges in May 2006.
While jurors heard evidence in three murders, Greek gang members are also suspects in four other slayings in the north Okanagan.
At the time of their arrests in May 2006, police said the Greeks were major players in the drug trade in the Okanagan and also had tentacles that reached to Grande Prairie, Edmonton, Vancouver and other cities. The Greeks also had links to the Hells Angels.
A Vernon lawyer connected to the Greeks is due to go to trial in January on criminal organization charges.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *