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Jury trial begins for two men accused in murder of aspiring sportscaster

Click to play video: 'The trial for the two men accused of the Second degree murder of aspiring sportscaster Jonathan Gayle has begun.' The trial for the two men accused of the Second degree murder of aspiring sportscaster Jonathan Gayle has begun.
WATCH: The trial for the two men accused of the Second degree murder of aspiring sportscaster Jonathan Gayle has begun – Mar 7, 2022

In the opening address at the trial for the two young men accused of the second-degree murder of 29-year-old Jonathan Gayle, Crown prosecutor Paul Zambonini told a jury that the co-accused were “complete strangers” to Gayle.

On Dec. 12, 2018, Gayle, an aspiring sportscaster who worked as a story editor at TSN, left his home in Oshawa and went to visit a pastor near Kipling Avenue and Dixon Road in Toronto to get some advice.

The 29-year-old had an interview for an on-air job the following month and his mother suggested he go see the pastor.

The jury heard that shortly after Gayle left the pastor’s home, two men who “are complete strangers got into his car and shot him to death.” Gayle was shot three times in the torso. One bullet penetrated his heart.

Read more: Police identify victim found dead with gunshot wounds after car crashes off west-end Toronto road

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Zambonini said video surveillance the jury will see during the trial will show Gayle’s car travelling northbound on Islington Avenue until it comes to a stop against a curb, before slowly mounting the curb, rolling forward over a lawn in front of an apartment building and striking a tree.

After the car comes to a rest against the tree, the video shows two men getting out of the passenger side of the car. The Crown alleges those men are Samir Adem and Salman Ahmed, who were both 18 at the time. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Zambonini said video shows the two suspects running away from the car and behind the apartment building. One of the men appears to be missing a shoe. A few seconds later, the men come back. They appear to have a flashlight and are searching the car, before running away again.

Video surveillance catches them running east and then south to Dixon Road, into a plaza at the corner of Islington and Dixon Road, before travelling west to a set of apartment buildings at 340 Dixon Road. The two men enter the lobby and their faces can be seen on camera.

Zambonini explained that the men are then seen on security video meeting up with some other people and heading down to the underground parking garage.

“You will see these two men repeatedly go to a corner of the parking garage, behind a parked car. It is unclear from the video what they are doing there,” Zambonini said.

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Read more: Two men charged in shooting death of 29-year-old TSN employee

That night, the two men meet up with a third man later identified as Adil Zeno, who takes them to a liquor store where Zeno buys then a bottle of cognac before taking them to the “Hav A Nap” motel on the other side of town.

Zambonini said the jury will hear from a police officer named Nicholas Randall who reviewed video surveillance several days later and noticed the men going into the corner of the parking garage.

“Officer Randall goes to investigate. In the corner, he finds a plastic bag. And inside the plastic … he finds a gun. The gun that was used to murder Jonathan Gayle,” Zambonini said.

Zambonini explained that a firearms expert will testify that the bullets fired from the semi-automatic handgun found in the garage were compared to the three bullets that were recovered from Jonathan Gayle’s body. They matched. As did the spent shell casings found in Gayle’s car.

The jury is also expected to hear that Samir Adem’s DNA was found on the gun. The bag in which the gun was found was examined for fingerprints. One of those prints came from Salman Ahmed.

Other forensic evidence in this case includes DNA from a jacket found near the scene. Both Adem’s DNA and Gayle’s blood is on that jacket.

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Grace Gayle, Jonathan’s mother, spoke to Global News outside court and said she and the family are seeking justice for her son.

“I was wild. I was like a tiger. I was afraid. I was angry. I was desperate,” said Gayle who explained she had never heard of the two 18-year-olds before they were arrested.

Gayle said Jonathan had dreamed of becoming a sportscaster since the age of two-and-a-half years old. She said her faith has allowed her to find peace.

“The thing is, I have forgiven them, even though it hurts. I have forgiven them. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to stand here today,” said Gayle.

Jonathan’s cousin Jason Gayle said he had a tough time believing Jonathan had been the victim of murder.

“Jonathan loved sports and he was also a family man. To be honest for you, I didn’t believe it for hours upon hours. I kept checking my Instagram because he always posted in the morning. I never believed it. I kept looking for him to do his post and he never did it,” said Gayle.

The trial continues.

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