Lover charged in Naglic slaying

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NEWS / Police not coughing up reward

James Dubro / Toronto Xtra / Thursday, September 01, 2005

Ten months after the shocking murder of Janko Naglic, the owner of the Church St bar the Barn, police have arrested Ivan Mendez-Romero, Janko's longtime lover.

At 11am on Aug 26, in what lead homicide investigator Det Wayne Banks described as a "high risk takedown," police with drawn guns arrested the 36-year-old on the charge of first-degree murder. Mendez-Romero was intercepted without incident by police in the Eglinton East/Warden area, as he was about to drive off in his black tow truck. He appeared in court on Aug 26 and was denied bail.

Mendez-Romero, who came to Canada from Cuba about 10 years ago, had worked at the Barn since the mid-1990s as a bartender and as a manager.

In the police press conference announcing the arrest, Banks called Mendez-Romero Naglic's "ex partner." The two had met in Cuba in 1994 and lived together at the time of the death.

Naglic's bound and gagged body was found on the morning of Oct 27, 2004 in the hallway of the second floor of his Balliol St home. An autopsy later determined that Naglic died by asphyxiation.

Naglic, 58, was one of Toronto's gay entrepreneurial originals, an immigrant who came to Canada in 1968 from a small village in Slovenia. In 1975 he opened a business at the corner of Church and Granby that became the Barn/Stables, one of the most popular and cruisiest bars in the village.

Banks said at the press conference that investigators received tremendous cooperation and support from the gay community. Since the slaying, police made media statements and launched a poster campaign to keep the investigation in the public consciousness.

"The GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans] community came forward and offered us the assistance that has helped us today with the arrest and charges."

Banks said that he also worked closely with authorities in Florida who helped him to "interview people and collect some evidence" relating to Naglic's properties there, including two condos and a large yacht. Toronto police talked to witnesses in the Ft Lauderdale and Miami areas where Naglic used to vacation.

Banks was tight-lipped as to what triggered this turn in the investigation, but did say that nobody was in line to collect the $50,000 reward police had offered. Banks did not rule out the possibility of further charges against other people.

The maximum penalty for first-degree murder is life in prison.

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