Edmonton filmmaker guilty of first-degree murder
Published Wednesday, April 13, 2011 9:30AM EDT
A jury took only five hours to convict amateur filmmaker Mark Twitchell of murder Tuesday, after a month-long trial laid out the lurid details of how he lured a stranger to his death in an Edmonton garage.
The killing echoed a horror-movie script that Twitchell wrote, which the Crown said was part of a plan the filmmaker had to become a serial killer.
During his trial, Twitchell admitted to the 2008 slaying of 38-year-old Johnny Altinger, but claimed it was done in self defence.
The Crown said Twitchell struck Altinger with a pipe, stabbed him to death, cut up his body and dumped the remains in a sewer.
Twitchell, 31, said he lured Altinger to his garage by setting up a blind Internet date on Oct. 10, 2008, but had only meant to create a publicity stunt for a movie he had recently made. He said that when Altinger realized he had been tricked, the two men fought and Twitchell killed him in self defence.
The murder was similar to a scene described in a 42-page document called "SKConfessions," found on Twitchell's computer.
Twitchell claimed the "SK" initials were a reference to his favourite author, Stephen King, though he said they could also stand for "serial killer." He said the document was not a diary, but a work of fiction, which was loosely based on some of the events in his life.
The document recounts the narrator's "progression into becoming a serial killer," including a first attack where the intended victim escapes the garage.
In court, the Crown filed evidence that a week before Twitchell killed Altinger, he had lured another man in the same way to the same garage, but that man had managed to flee.
The six-man, six-woman jury also heard that Twitchell was obsessed with Dexter Morgan -- a fictional serial killer on a popular TV show who hunts down other killers while working a day job in a police department.
Twitchell said he had built a "kill room" in the garage that was similar to a dismemberment room that the Dexter character uses on TV.
But Twitchell said his version of Dexter's kill room was a prop that he intended to use in an elaborate hoax to generate publicity for his movie. He wanted to lure the men to the Edmonton garage, tell them about the movie and have them write about their experience online as if it actually happened.
Twitchell's kill room included a heavy metal table that was covered in plastic to catch blood spatters. It also had knives, saws and a cleaver that were stained with Altinger's blood -- though Twitchell described them as movie props.
After killing Altinger, Twitchell broke into the dead man's condo and gained access to his email accounts.
Twitchell promptly sent out emails under the victim's name, suggesting to friends and family that Altinger was moving to Costa Rica with a woman he just met.
But Altinger had told a friend where he had intended to meet a date, and police soon tracked his disappearance to the garage where he had been killed. Twitchell was arrested on Halloween night in 2008 and his trial began earlier this year.
With his conviction on a first-degree murder charge, Twitchell won't be eligible for parole for a minimum of 25 years.
With files from The Canadian Press