2 min

Money the motive, say police

Murder of Barn owner not random

Credit: Joshua Meles

Janko Naglic, owner of the Church St institution the Barn, was targeted for murder because of his wealth, and his slaying was definitely “not a random act.”

That’s the theory presented by Det-Sgt Al Comeau, the be-spectacled, soft-spoken homicide officer leading the investigation into the Oct 26 death. Naglic would have been 59 this month. His 418 Church St business has been a lynchpin of gay nightlife life in Toronto since 1975.

At a hastily arranged community forum at the 519 Community Centre on Nov 4, Comeau confirmed that Naglic died by asphyxiation, but would not release any more evidence from the scene, including whether there was forced entry into Naglic’s Balliol St home or whether the place was looted.

Comeau said there is no evidence that Naglic’s slaying was connected to sex in any way. Comeau says investigators have also ruled out gay hate as a motivation. The likely motive is believed to be financial gain.

“Mr Naglic was a very wealthy man. People who have accumulated wealth are often targets,” said Comeau.

In his opening statement at the unusual briefing, Comeau said he was himself “greatly saddened by the death of a man so highly regarded and respected” in the gay community. But Comeau described the murder as a “very solvable crime” because of the high degree of co-operation the police have been receiving from scores of Naglic’s friends, neighbours and other key witnesses. Refusing to speculate on how long it would take for police to lay charges, Comeau insisted that he would stay with the investigation “until it is solved or until all the leads dry up.”

Comeau, a 23-year Toronto Police Service veteran, recently headed up the January 2004 murder investigation into the death of gay psychiatrist Henry Durost. The 78-year-old former head of the Centre For Addiction And Mental Health had been strangled to death in his Summerhill home, the victim of what police then called a targeted robbery by a man he knew. The suspect in that case is in custody and Comeau said “there are large differences between the two crimes.”

Over the years Naglic had complained of harassment by the police and the Alcohol And Gaming Commission Of Ontario. The possibility of losing his liquor licence because of allegations of noise, overcrowding and liquor infractions hung over his head for the last several years. After being charged in 2000 with permitting disorderly conduct in his club for hosting nude dances, Naglic went to court and won.

In April when the police department’s 52 Division plainclothes section was being disbanded amidst corruption allegations, Naglic told Xtra he had been approached by someone who wanted $40,000 up front and $2,000 weekly to make his problems go away. Janko told Global TV at the time that he was “fearful for his life” in making the matter public. When asked about the possibility of police involvement in his murder, Comeau said he would follow all the leads and would “protect the integrity of the case” wherever it points.

Asked whether more than one person could have been involved in the murder, Comeau said, “It is a definite possibility that one or more persons may be involved.”

On the day of his murder, police say he attended a ski club function at the Old Mill Inn And Spa. Kathy Drury, an AIDS activist and friend of Naglic, had lunch with the victim that day. She believes the murder was a “planned event.” Still, many friends and associates wonder how a man as big and strong as Naglic could have been overtaken and killed so easily.

Now two weeks after the murder, police are still interviewing potential witnesses and sifting the voluminous forensic evidence.

If anyone has any direct or indirect information either about the movements of Naglic after 6pm on Oct 26 or knows anything regarding the murder they should contact Comeau at (416) 808-7395.