By Sam Pazzano, Toronto Sun
TORONTO — A desperate, deceitful groom admitted Friday he murdered his mother and two brothers to prevent his mom from revealing his web of lies to his fiancée a month before their wedding.
Brett Ryan, 36, pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of second-degree murder in the Aug. 25, 2016, killings of his mother, Susan, 66, and his brother, Alexander, 29, and first-degree murder in the crossbow slaying of his oldest brother, Christopher, 42, a TTC fare collector. He also pleaded guilty to attempting to murder another brother, Leigh, 38.
Ryan had dropped out of university in the fall of 2015 and lost his job once his employer discovered he was a convicted robber who served a five-year prison sentence. Ryan, who was engaged to be married to physiotherapist Kristen Baxter last September, had lied to his fiancée that he was a university grad and working at a computer job.
“This is an extremely tragic case — an entire family has been destroyed by a web of lies,” said Justice John McMahon.
The judge sentenced Ryan to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for first-degree murder and two concurrent life sentences for the killings of the man’s mother and younger brother. Ryan received a 10-year concurrent sentence for the attempted murder.
Crown attorney Dihim Emami and senior Crown attorney Tom Pittman negotiated the plea bargain deal with defence lawyers John Rosen and Lindsay Daviau. If Ryan had been convicted of three counts of first-degree murder — as initially charged — he could have faced the daunting prospect of consecutive parole eligibility periods, meaning he would have to wait 75 years for his first chance at parole.
“Things unravelled for Brett Ryan in 2015 as he left school and lied to his fiancée that he graduated in April 2016,” said McMahon.
Ryan and Baxter moved in together in 2013 and were engaged in 2014, court heard.
Ryan secured an IT job in May 2016 but was dismissed the next month once his employer discovered Ryan — known as The Bearded Bandit — had committed eight robberies over an eight-month period, ending in June 2008, and had gone to prison.
Ryan concealed his dismissal and lied that he was working from home at their Queens Quay condo. Instead, he was working for his widowed homemaker mom, who assisted him financially, although the mother thought her son was working from home, said Emami.
A few weeks before his wedding, he revealed his web of lies to his mom.
She gave Ryan an ultimatum: Tell his fiancée the truth and she’d support him temporarily while he looked for a job, or the mother would expose her son’s deceit.
WORRIED ‘SHE’D CALL OFF THE WEDDING’
“Brett Ryan was worried that if his fiancée discovered the web of lies, she’d call off the wedding,” said McMahon.
“In the days leading up to Aug. 25, 2016, Brett’s concerns led him to plan her death,” said Emami. Brett planted the crossbow in his mom’s garage and set up two computer devices in his Queens Quay apartment that, once activated, would play comedy files from YouTube, and send emails from his computer, court heard.
“This was a sophisticated plan to build in an alibi, although these devices were never used,” said McMahon.
The tension mounted in the days leading up to the killings as Ryan couldn’t land a job.
He confronted his mother. When their argument became heated, she phoned his older brother, Christopher, for help.
Brett retrieved the crossbow, stabbed his mom with a bolt, then strangled her to death with a yellow nylon rope.
Brett ambushed Christopher by shooting a bolt through the back of his head when he appeared.
Brett hid both bodies under a tarp in the garage. His younger brother, Alexander, was fatally stabbed with a bolt when he confronted Brett.
Leigh, who lived with his mother, heard the commotion and saw Brett standing over Alexander, who collapsed in the driveway.
Leigh raced inside to phone for help. Brett attacked him immediately, but Leigh managed to escape and phone for help from a neighbour’s home.
When police officers arrived, Ryan confessed. After being charged with the attack on Alexander, Ryan responded, “I should have driven him to the hospital.”
COMPUTERIZED ALIBI DEVICES
They were alibi devices for a computer geek.
Two devices were to create the illusion that killer Brett Ryan was at his downtown condo, chuckling over comedy videos and sending various emails, so he could tell officers he was at home — and nowhere near his mom’s suburban home — when she was brutally murdered.
When police officers shut down and searched Ryan’s Queens Quay condo, they discovered two contraptions that, if activated, would have created an Internet footprint while Ryan killed his family members.
Following the murders, a traffic jam, the closing of the high-rise condo where Ryan lived and the presence of an emergency task force and specialized police units triggered false rumours that officers found a detonation device.
The first device consisted of a laptop computer set up to play a number of comedy files from YouTube while Ryan was outside his apartment and at his mother’s home. The laptop was placed against a wall and held in place by two dumbbells.
The second device consisted of an iPad and iPhone set up on the kitchen table island to send emails while Brett was away. These devices faced two oscillating fans that were attached to timers.
Justice John McMahon called these devices part of a ”sophisticated plan” to create an alibi for Ryan.
These devices were never activated, so no videos were played and no messages were sent on the day of the gruesome murders in Scarborough.
FAKE BEARD BANDIT
Brett Ryan was upfront with his physiotherapist fiancée about his criminal past but it cost him a full-time computer job.
He landed an IT job in May 2016 — one month after he “graduated” from university. The truth was he dropped out in the fall of 2015.
When his employer discovered Ryan, 36, was “The Fake Beard Bandit,” he was fired.
The chameleon-like Ryan hid his firing, saying he was working from home. It wasn’t the first time he disguised the truth: He had been a prolific bank robber.
Roughly 10 years earlier, Ryan was living beyond his means. He had expensive tastes but no legal job between October 2007 and June 2008.
He wore $400 designer jeans, stylish Versace belts and drove a new Ford F-150 truck, court has heard.
“He just didn’t want to work for his lifestyle,” a police officer said of Ryan, who had also quit university studies in 2003 and again in 2005.
Police dubbed Ryan “The Fake Beard Bandit” for his habit of wearing a disguise while he robbed banks in Toronto and Durham Region during an eight-month spree, starting in October 2007.
Ryan typically pulled in between $2,000 and $4,000 for each robbery. On one day, he robbed two Scarborough banks within an hour, hauling in almost $10,000, court has heard.
Ryan dressed like an old nerd, with spectacle-style glasses, a fishing “Gilligan-style” hat and a plaid striped shirt.
Ryan, who had no prior brushes with the law, was a quick study, meticulously scoping out banks for days before he struck, according to evidence in previous court proceedings.
In January 2009, Ryan pleaded guilty to eight counts of robbery and eight counts of wearing a disguise. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
On June 20, 2008, hold-up squad officers had Ryan under surveillance when he was scoping out a TD Canada Trust branch at 3115 Kingston Rd.
He was busted outside — with a familiar hold-up note and a can of pepper spray in his jacket pocket, court has heard.