Friend told Naglic to stand up to lover

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CRIME / "Tired of all the tales of woe and drama" James Dubro / Toronto Xtra / Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In the weeks leading up to Janko Naglic's death his good friend Timothy Burke told him to quit complaining and stand up to his lover.

Burke testified that he told Naglic he was "tired of the tales. Do something or stop talking about it."

Naglic was found dead in his Davisville-area home on Oct 27, 2004. His lover of 10 years Ivan Mendez-Romero, 38, is currently standing trial for his murder.

On Feb 26 Burke, deeply tanned from a recent cruise to Brazil, testified that on Oct 9, 2004 Naglic and Mendez-Romero attended a birthday celebration Burke hosted for his lover. "[Mendez-Romero] "was very kind to Janko and very nice to everyone — very gracious and happy."

But later that night Burke arrived at Naglic's Church St bar the Barn and found that Naglic was furious at his boyfriend because he wasn't doing his job. Burke told the court that Mendez-Romero had worked at the club for years as security, bartender and manager but that in the last few months of Janko's life when Burke saw Mendez-Romero at the bar he was "playing pool and socializing" and that he "had begun not showing up for work."

Burke testified that Naglic "was furious and frustrated that Ivan was not at the door and that Mendez-Romero and Naglic had a heated exchange after which Naglic fired him as manager."

The following Friday night Burke testified that Mendez-Romero was back at the Barn working as manager again.

"I told Janko that he was allowing himself to be run over," said Burke, "that he needed to stick to his guns."

A week before Naglic's death Burke said he'd had enough of hearing about the couple's troubles.

"I was tired of all his tales of woe and all the drama," Burke testified. "Janko was unwilling to do anything and I was quite unwilling to help. In retrospect I was too harsh."

On the last day of Naglic's life he had a 19-minute conversation with Naglic on his cell phone beginning at 4:35pm.

"He said he was on his way home, that Mendez-Romero had not come to the Old Mill luncheon and that he was furious that he had backed out of it," said Burke. "Janko was very fired up. He had changed his mind about a trip with Mendez-Romero to Cuba in December. He was very, very angry at Mendez-Romero for telling him that he now was not going to him with Florida in November [an annual trip that the couple made to celebrate Naglic's birthday].

"Fuck it! I've had it. I'm going to Florida on my own and not going to Cuba but to Costa Rica," Naglic said, according to Burke's testimony.

Burke testified that Naglic told him during that last conversation that Mendez-Romero "had gone out Monday [the previous day] and not come in until early in the morning and that he had found a parking ticket he got on the Danforth... at a social function in that area with his wife."

According to Burke, Naglic was on his way home to speak with Mendez-Romero before a tattoo appointment that Mendez-Romero had.

"He was fired up. He spoke of his relationship and how desperately unhappy he was, but he seemed unable to accept my advice to be strong," Burke said.

"On this particular occasion he seemed very resolved. I was very pleased that he had enough of the bullshit and was getting on with his life."

It was the last time he spoke with Naglic. The following day he heard about Naglic's death on the news.

Burke had known the couple for approximately 10 years and socialized with them as a couple on many occasions, including vacations to Florida as recently as September 2004. He called Mendez-Romero on Oct 28, 2004 to find out what had happened.

"He said that he had spent the night out with his wife at a hotel," testified Burke. "He said he got home and opened the door and saw Janko dead on the floor."

Burke testified that he asked Mendez-Romero how it was he knew Naglic was dead.

"I opened the door and saw his blue head and I ran," Mendez-Romero responded, according to Burke's testimony, adding that Mendez-Romero told him about going to neighbour and witness Phyllis Lamb's house for help.

According to Burke he saw Mendez-Romero on two occasions following Naglic's death. In December 2004 Burke called Mendez-Romero to ask if he wanted a bed he was getting rid of. Burke testified that he brought the bed to a Victoria Park address where Mendez-Romero was then living with his wife.

On New Year's Eve 2004 Mendez-Romero attended a party given by Burke's cousin, Burke told the court.

"Ivan came with his wife," said Burke. "We talked quite a bit but there was not one word about Janko. It was like he never had existed."

Burke testified that he found out about Mendez-Romero's marriage to Victoria Bunda in March 2004. According to Burke when he asked Naglic about it "he said it had been a complete surprise to him. Ivan Mendez-Romero came home on a Saturday in a tuxedo and said, 'I'm getting married — a marriage of convenience.'"

But by September 2004 Burke says Naglic "suspected that it was a real marriage and that he was now vying for Mendez-Romero's affection with his wife."

Burke told the court that Naglic had told him that Mendez-Romero "had been a member of a biker gang or club" and that he could become violent when angry.

According to Burke, Naglic told him about an incident in summer 2004 in which Mendez-Romero destroyed a newly renovated master bathroom.

"Naglic had been in bed and Mendez-Romero charged upstairs in a fit of rage and smashed a number of things in his bathroom," testified Burke.

Although he testified that Naglic and Mendez-Romero "had a playful relationship and had a lot of fun together, especially in Florida where they had the yacht, the condo and a Mercedes convertible" he also told the court that it was a rocky relationship.

"There were a lot of up and downs in their relationship," Burke said. "In the last year it was mostly down."

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