NEWS
10/13/2011 01:51 EDT | Updated 12/13/2011 05:12 EST

Godson Pleads Guilty To Philanthropist's Murder

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The godson of a Toronto philanthropist who donated millions to wildlife conservation and environmental causes has pleaded guilty to planning his shooting death in 2007.

Glen Davis was 66 when he was gunned down on May 18, 2007, in an underground garage of a building housing World Wildlife Fund Canada offices in Toronto's north end as he returned to his car after a lunch appointment.

Marshall Ross, Davis's first cousin once removed and also his godson, surprised onlookers by suddenly pleading guilty to first-degree murder in a Toronto courthouse Wednesday.

"I cannot do anything to change the terrible thing that I have done," Ross said in a statement that his lawyer read out in court.

The plea could not be reported until Thursday, when a publication ban was lifted by Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer.

'Disgusting betrayal of my trust'

A victim impact statement delivered by Davis's widow, Mary Alice Davis, described the anguish her husband's killing had caused her, compounded by the revelation that Ross admitted he planned it.

"Between the murder and the arrest, Marshall had given the eulogy and placed Glen's ashes in the grave, and continued to socialize with me, all the while inquiring as to the progress of the investigation," she said.

"I was devastated when I learned the extent of his involvement as this was such a disgusting betrayal of my trust."

The statement of facts submitted to the court to support the guilty plea said Ross was having financial problems when the murder plot was hatched. He thought Davis's death would bring him an influx of money because he was a well-liked relative of the multimillionaire.

Davis's company had given Ross's housing renovation firm a $2-million loan that Ross was having difficulty repaying.

There was also evidence that Ross was displeased with the fact that Davis was giving away large sums of money to outside groups.

Ross paid "substantial sums of money, in cash, to the people whom he hired to commit [the murder]," the statement said.

Ross, who is 41 with two young children, has been sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

Ross was thought to be Davis's "favourite relative and their relationship came to be in the nature of uncle and nephew," the statement said. Ross delivered a brief eulogy at Davis's funeral.

Also charged with first-degree murder are Ivgeny Vorobiov and Dmitri Kossyrine, both 33 and both from Richmond Hill, Ont. Jury selection for their trial is due to begin next week.

Davis was an avid supporter of both WWF Canada and the Sierra Club of Canada. He had just finished having lunch with someone from the WWF when he was shot.