EDMONTON - Police say they have charged four gang members with three separate murders in Alberta and Saskatchewan, including the shooting of an innocent mother who was simply answering her front door.
Another death involves a man whose decapitated body was found near a ditch in rural Alberta. A few days later, a woman walking her dog found his missing head in an Edmonton alley.
Police in both provinces explained Tuesday that the alleged killers are members of the White Boy Posse. And investigators believe two of the slayings were motivated by the gang's drug trafficking business.
In the case of Lorry Anne Santos, investigators think the suspects targeted the wrong house.
"They were way off," Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill told reporters. "They came from out of the city. They had the wrong address. They had the wrong co-ordinates."
The 33-year-old woman was on maternity leave from her job at the local office of uranium mining giant Cameco. At 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 12, while waking up with her husband and four children, she answered the door to strangers.
At the time, police said shots were fired by one or more people standing outside the home. One of the woman's older children, a teenager, dialled 911. Santos was later pronounced dead at hospital.
"This was a tragic crime that left a husband without his wife and four children without their mother," Weighill said.
In her obituary, Santos is described as a charming woman with a great sense of humour, who was always taking photos of her children and collected them in piles of photo albums. She met her husband when she was 17 and was a stay-at-home mom until her oldest children started school.
Friend Jenlyn Santos-Ong said the family is relieved police have have finally made arrests.
"It's just affirmation of what we knew all along, and that is Lorry is innocent and they went to the wrong house.
"There's really nothing that can bring Lorry back ... but at least now (relatives) have some answers as to why this tragedy happened."
Several family members attended court Tuesday as one of the three accused made a brief appearance.
Joshua Dylan Petrin, 29, of Edmonton and Randy James Wayne O'Hagan and Kyle Darren Halbauer — both 22 and from Lloydminster, Alta. — are charged with first-degree murder in her death.
O'Hagan and Nikolas Jon Nowytzkyj, 32, of Wainwright, Alta., have also been charged with first-degree murder and offering an indignity to a human body in the death of Robert John Roth.
The decapitated remains of the 54-year-old Lloydminster man were found Oct. 20 near the Alberta town of Ranfurly. At the time, residents said the body was lying in a ditch next to a running pickup truck.
His head was found five days later and 100 kilometres away in Edmonton.
O'Hagan and Halbauer also face first-degree murder charges in the death of another man. The body of 35-year old Bryan Gower was found on a rural road near Kitscoty, Alta., on Sept. 25.
Insp. Jerry Scott with the Alberta RCMP's serious crimes branch said detectives started seeing links in the three cases after Roth's remains were found.
When they realized they were dealing with organized crime, they stepped up the investigation, he said. "We were very cognizant of who we were dealing with and the public safety matters."
Previous reports have described the White Boy Posse as a white supremacist street gang with ties to the Hells Angels. They deal primarily in cocaine.
Supt. Ted Miles with the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team wouldn't confirm that description of the gang, other than to say it is based in northern Alberta but has moved next door into Saskatchewan. There's also evidence it may be in the Northwest Territories.
"This is an organized crime group that has been known to police and has been on our radar for a number of years," he said.
"Obviously, organized crime is really about the money ... When you have large sums of money at play and greed is involved, varying groups will end up in competition and, as a result, we end up with violence."
Miles said the accused killers are still being investigated in relation to organized crime.
— By Chris Purdy, with files from CJWW, CKOM, CHED