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Fake Beard Bandit, 35, charged in triple crossbow killings weeks before wedding

TORONTO — A man once dubbed the Fake Beard Bandit and due to be married in three weeks was charged Friday in a bloody crossbow attack that left three people dead and another person seriously injured.

Wearing white coveralls and fumbling with his fingers, Brett Ryan, 35, of Toronto, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder during a brief court appearance.

Ryan looked attentive but did not speak to the court. He did nod when asked if he understood that he was to remain in custody pending a second appearance Sept. 2.

Details of the proceedings — including the names of the victims and witnesses — cannot be reported due to a publication ban requested by the prosecution, who gave no details as to the reason despite repeated requests.

Police have released few details about the killings or what might have motivated them.

The relationship between the accused and the four victims — three men and a woman — was not released.

Late Friday, a police source confirmed that aside from the three people who were fatally wounded, a fourth person was still recovering in hospital. No charges had been laid Friday in connection with the wounded person.

Ryan lived in an upscale waterfront condo that was evacuated on Thursday after police responded to a report of a suspicious package at about the same time they were dealing with the east-end killings. The two incidents were related, police said, though they offered no details on the link.

In 2008, Ryan was arrested in the case of the Fake Beard Bandit, and charged with numerous counts of robbery, wearing a disguise, and possession of dangerous weapons. The charges related to a string of bank robberies in Toronto and nearby Durham Region in which a man showed a teller a note indicating he was armed and demanded cash.

In that case, Ryan was arrested after going into a bank in a false beard carrying pepper spray, police said at the time. Authorities did not immediately say what became of the charges. However local media outlets reported that Ryan pleaded guilty to eight counts of robbery and eight counts of disguise with intent. They cited court records and reported he received a sentence of just under four years behind bars.

Social media profiles show the accused was engaged to a registered physiotherapist. They were to be married in Hamilton on Sept. 16.

The couple, according to their registry page, met three years ago on a blind date in downtown Toronto. The woman was not among those involved in the bloody incident.

Thursday's crossbow killings shocked the otherwise tranquil, tree-lined neighbourhood as police cordoned off the immediate area. One neighbour, who said he made the call to 911, described a harrowing scene that began with a knock on his door by the man later taken to hospital. He was covered in blood.

"I opened the door and this gentleman almost fell on me, so I sort of carried him half into the living room and he fell down on the floor " the man said Friday.

"He said, 'Call 911...make sure the police come, make sure the police come.'"

Vijaya Cruz, whose house backs on to the bungalow where the incident took place, said she was home with her husband when he heard a commotion.

"My husband said he heard some screaming, someone was screaming there," she said. "Then he said he heard 'bang, bang, bang' noise, and then someone was saying 'calm down.'"

Cruz said she soon saw the flashing lights of a fire truck which was among the emergency crews that responded to the scene. Police later knocked on her door and told her three people had died in an incident involving a crossbow.

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