01/30/2016 20:38 EST | Updated 01/30/2017 00:12 EST

Suspect charged in slaying of Toronto man reported to have Mafia ties

TORONTO — An 87-year-old man who reportedly was a longtime underworld figure was shot dead Friday and a suspect identified as his son-in-law faces a first degree murder charge. 

Police identified the man killed as Rocco Zito of Toronto. 

The suspect, Domenico Scopelliti, 51, turned himself in to police after he was named as a suspect. He appeared in court on Saturday but there was no immediate indication when he would next appear before a judge to face the allegations. Some local media outlets reported he was Zito's son-in-law, but a police news release did not mention any family relationship.

Police have said Zito was pronounced dead after suffering a gunshot wound in a house on Toronto's west end. They said officers tried to save the man's life.

Antonio Nicaso, an expert on Canada's Mafia landscape, said Zito was a powerful figure in the Calabrian Mafia, 'ndrangheta.

Zito immigrated to Canada in the mid-1950s, Nicaso said. He added Zito had ties to the New York, Montreal and Italy branches of 'ndrangheta.

Nicaso said Zito acted as an enforcer for Albert Agueci, who was involved in the "French Connection", smuggling heroin from Canada to the U.S.

Zito made his money from gambling, money-lending and counterfeiting, Nicaso said, though police were never able to prove it.

Zito was convicted of manslaughter in 1980 and sentenced to four years in prison after beating a man to death over an unpaid debt, Nicaso said. Several years later, Zito was appointed the head of the Camera di Controllo, which is like a board of elders.

"He was a bigshot," Nicaso said. "He was a kingpin. He was a really big boss in the '80s, in the '70s, even in the '90s."

Since then, Zito had taken a backseat, Nicaso said. In recent years, he acted as more of an advisor than an active participant.

But Nicaso said, "Retirement is not an option in the Mafia."

—Follow @ColeyT on Twitter.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press