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Cousin admits organizing murder of philanthropist Glen Davis

More than four years after prominent Toronto philanthropist Glen Davis was ambushed and shot to death in a midtown parking lot, the victim’s cousin admitted to masterminding the murder plot.

Marshall Ross pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Thursday and told the court he was behind the contract killing of his wealthy cousin, who donated millions of dollars to charity, including to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF).

Ross, Davis’s first-cousin once removed, will be given a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

In her victim impact statement, Davis’ widow Mary Alice Davis, said Ross eulogized her husband, placed his ashes in a grave and “continued to socialize with me” during the police investigation.

“I was devastated when I learned the extent of his involvement as this was such a disgusting betrayal of my trust,” she said.

Davis, 66, was beaten and shot twice with a 9mm semi-automatic in the underground garage of the WWF offices at 245 Eglinton Ave. E. on May 18, 2007.

His murder came two years after he was beaten with a baseball bat outside his Toronto office.

Another man involved in the plot, Jesse Smith, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact, last year. In March 2010, he told a court he drove Davis’ killer to the parking lot, helped him escape and then disposed of the gun afterwards by tossing the weapon in Lake Scugog.

Two other men are also charged with first-degree murder in the case — Ivgeny Vorobiov and  Dmitri Kossyrine.

Davis inherited a family fortune worth approximately $20 million when his father died, leaving him in charge N.M. Davis Corp. The businessman used his extensive wealth to support environmental and conservation causes.

According to an agreed statement of facts read in court during Smith’s case, Ross wanted to “get rid” of Davis because he was giving away too much of the family’s money. Ross also believed that if his cousin were dead he’d be able to erase a $2 million debt he owed to the Davis corp.

Ross offered to pay Smith $100,000 up front to participate in the plot, according to the agreed statement of facts.

In her statement, Davis’ widow said her husband should be remembered for more than his financial contributions and that he “changed the map of our country.”

“Financial support was Glen’s best-known, but by no means his only contribution to conservation in Canada,” Mary Alice Davis said in her statement.

She said her late husband gave more than $20 million to various environmental causes over four decades.

“Glen’s approach was to invest in people; he had faith that if you kept good people in business, then good things would happen, even if you had to be patient and wait a while for tangible results,” she said. “Consequently, he also supported a number of individuals who could never have dedicated their lives to saving nature without Glen’s help.”

The results of this approach were nothing short of remarkable, and established an unprecedented conservation legacy for our country.”

With files from Marianne Boucher