The daughter of murdered boxer and reputed mob enforcer Eddie Melo is outraged that the hit man who killed her father for money is back in the community on unsupervised day passes.
“I was shocked, gutted, disappointed and appalled,” Jessica Melo, 37, said after hearing from parole authorities that Charles Gagne, 46, has been granted unsupervised work release in the Muskoka area.
Gagne murdered her father, who was then 40, and his friend Jaoa (Johnny) Pavao, 42, for $50,000 while on a day pass on April 6, 2001 outside Amici Sport Café in Cliffway Plaza, near Hurontario St. and the QEW.
When he committed the double murder, Gagne was already on a day pass for robbing a grocery store with an automatic rifle.
Jessica Melo said she felt “absolute disgust and pain” to learn this month that Gagne is allowed to walk free again from Beaver Creek minimum security institution on unsupervised passes for an unspecified job.
“How can someone who took two men away from their loved ones via murder be granted an UNSUPERVISED work release?” Jessica Melo asked in an email to the Star.
“WHY does he deserve a second/third/fourth chance at life when he destroyed SO many lives?” she asked.
She said she was further “gutted” to hear that Gagne has also applied to the National Parole Board for unescorted temporary absences that would not be work related.
“As I am still processing the first blow I get hit with another jab!” Jessica Melo wrote to the Star. “I have no time to collect my thoughts or emotions and I’m a wreck.”
Gagne was sentenced to life in prison in 2003 with no eligibility for parole for 12 years after pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree murder for the contract murders of Melo and Pavao.
Court heard that Gagne agreed to kill Melo for $75,000 and underworld status and that Pavao was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He told court he was only paid $50,000 of his $75,000 fee. No one was ever convicted of ordering the murders.
The Correctional Service of Canada can’t discuss specifics of cases because of the Privacy Act, spokesperson Laura Prosser said in an email.
In general terms, prisoners serving life sentences like Gagne are eligible to apply for unescorted temporary absences three years before their full parole eligibility date, Parole Board of Canada spokesperson Holly Knowles said.
“Board members must decide whether the offender’s risk can be safely managed in society during the absence, and whether the absence will facilitate the offender’s reintegration into the community,” Knowles said in an email.
Unescorted temporary absences “may be authorized for medical and administrative reasons, for community service, for family contact, for parental responsibilities and compassionate reasons, and for personal development for rehabilitative purposes,” Knowles said.
In November 2017, Gagne was given a vote of confidence at a parole hearing from Steve Sherriff, the retired prosecutor who put him behind bars for the 2001 murders.
Sherriff said he was impressed by Gagne when he met him face to face.
“I expected a Grade A psychopath,” Sherriff testified. “I know the breed … I became his friend. Who would believe that?”
Sherriff did not return recent requests for comment on Gagne’s case.
Shortly after Sherriff’s words of support, Gagne was granted at least six months of day passes from prison to do community service work in Muskoka.
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During those passes, he had to be accompanied by either a Correctional Service of Canada worker or “a trained non security escort,” according to a Corrections document obtained by the Star.
“What does a life sentence even mean if you can go freely in the community after a few years?” Jessica Melo asked the Star.
“My dad certainly can’t walk around or come over for family dinners or see his grandchildren. Charles Gagne took all of that away in an instant.”
Jessica Melo has repeatedly faulted the Crown’s office for not seeking a dangerous offender designation for Gagne, which could have put him off the streets indefinitely.
Court heard that Gagne was in and out of prison since he was 18 for violent crimes, including armed robbery. He also admitted at a November 2017 parole hearing that he committed at least 20 armed bank robberies for which he was never caught and that he was also involved in underworld debt collection.
Gagne cried during his November 2017 parole hearing when he described how he remained haunted by the memory of the child seat for Melo’s preschool son Eduardo Jr. in the back seat of the SUV as he murdered Melo.
“I’ll never be perfect,” Gagne said. “Hopefully I won’t make stupid frigging decisions … I can’t handle that. It’s killing me.”
Melo grew up in west Toronto and turned pro as a boxer in Montreal at age 17. He was nicknamed “Hurricane” for his hell-bent boxing style, which earned him the Canadian professional middleweight title. Melo retired from the ring in his mid-20s with a record of 24 knockouts in 38 fights.
One of Melo’s biggest fans was the late Frank (Santos, The Big Guy) Cotroni, a Montreal mobster and convicted killer.
Melo served as Cotroni’s driver in Toronto in the 1980s and ‘90s when Cotroni visited the city.
Gagne has become a husband and a stepfather while in custody for the double murder. While at Beaver Creek correctional facility in Muskoka, Gagne married a single mother he met online.
Gagne told the parole board in November 2017 that he can understand why the Melo family despises him.
“I’ve been a manipulator, a liar, a killer,” Gagne told the board.