February 8, 2007
Johnny K-9 starts a new lifeReleased from prison after wrongful arrest, now a bodyguard
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
Life has turned to the better for John Croitoru, better known to wrestling fans under his aliases Johnny K-9, Bruiser Bedlam and Taras Bulba. For one, he's not in prison on a double-murder charge anymore.
Ion William (John) Croitoru was arrested in January 2005, implicated by Hamilton, Ontario police in the double murder of Ancaster lawyer Lynn Gilbank and her husband Fred. The couple had been shot to death in their house early in the morning on November 16, 1998.
He would spend 20 months in prison before the charges were withdrawn in June 2006.
"I couldn't sleep at night," Croitoru told SLAM! Wrestling, "because I couldn't believe I was incarcerated for something like this. I'm not saying that I'm no angel, but I didn't kill nobody."
In many ways, Croitoru's past had caught up with him. His reputation, as they say, preceded him.
"He weighed almost 300 pounds, had a shaved head, Fu Manchu moustache and eyes that could pierce bullet-proof steel at 20 paces," described the Hamilton Spectator newspaper after his arrest, listing off his numerous run-ins with the law, both before and after he was president of the Hamilton chapter of the Satan's Choice motorcycle gang. Violations included drug trafficking, assaulting police, forgery, and in 2000, a bombing in Sudbury that did about $133,000 in damage to the police station and a nearby bank.
Today, Croitoru insists that is all behind him. It was a few police officers who had it in for him that tied him to the murders, said Croitoru.
"I didn't even know these people that got murdered. I didn't know them, didn't hear of them. Somebody brought my name up in the equation here," he said. "So they're so hungry for an arrest -- 'Let's get the bad guy' -- so they get me and two other co-accuseds. No evidence, no nothing." (Murder charges against Andre Gravelle were also dropped in the case, as were the two counts of accessory after the fact of murder against John [Jack] Howard.)
Croitoru was charged with two counts of first degree murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder.
He now has a civil suit in the works against the Hamilton police force, for being wrongfully accused, wrongfully imprisoned and all-around malicious prosecution. Croitoru said he is suing for $15 million.
The pending case means he is not able to talk about many of the specifics of his arrest for the double murders.
"It'll be a year or two before we can get going," Croitoru said of the lawsuit. "But our case is so winnable that our lawyers are confident that we'll reach a conclusion before going to court, because they don't want the police looking bad, like they already do."
He is also working on a book about his life. "This will be a bestseller," he commented. "I've been on every extreme in the world -- the bikers, I was a wrestler, Major Junior A hockey player for the Kitchener Rangers. I've done a lot of things people can only dream about."
Croitoru has already put much of the past behind him. He has left Hamilton for Vancouver and is once again living with his common-law wife and their two sons, aged five and eight. "I'm a family man," he said. "I'm just starting to get to know them again. I've been gone for two years. It's pretty neat, bonding again."
He is loving the Left Coast. "It's beautiful out here, oh my God. The ocean, the mountains," Croitoru said. "Hamilton makes me puke now when I think about it, all those years wasted sitting there in that garage, you know what I mean?"
The former Johnny K-9 has found work as a bodyguard, and his assignments have included escorting celebrities like Jack Nicholson and Cyndi Lauper around Vancouver, to everything from movie premieres to shopping sprees.
"I love it!" Croitoru raved. "I dress up nice, eat the best food, just hang around and make sure nobody screws with these people."
Greg Oliver founded SLAM! Wrestling with John Powell way back in 1996, and has been writing about pro wrestling since 1985. Later in 2007, his third book The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels (with Steven Johnson) is set to come out from ECW Press, complimenting The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams (also with Johnson) and The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians. Order them both from the SLAM! Wrestling Store. He can be emailed at email@example.com.