'Date' turned into fight for life, man tells murder trial
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, April 1, 2011 6:58PM EDT
EDMONTON - A man told a first-degree murder trial Friday that he was attacked in a dark garage by a stranger wearing a hockey mask and had to fight to escape with his life.
Gilles Tetreault testified that he walked into the building in a residential Edmonton neighbourhood on Oct. 3, 2008, to pick up a woman he had met on an Internet dating site.
It was the same garage where Mark Twitchell allegedly killed Johnny Altinger one week later, cutting up his body, burning the parts and dumping his remains down a manhole.
But instead of meeting a pretty blond named Sheena, the 36-year-old Tetreault said he was confronted by a man in a mask who zapped him with a stun baton, pulled a gun on him and ordered him to lie face down on the ground. The attacker then began covering Tetreault's eyes with grey duct tape.
"I started tearing up. A lot of things were going through my head. When they say your life flashes before your eyes, that's what it was. My family. They may never see me again," he testified.
Tetreault said he was so scared he couldn't speak and feared the man in the hockey mask was going to rape or kill him.
"I decided I'd better fight back. I'd rather die my way than his way."
Tetreault said he scuffled with his attacker and then discovered the pistol being held on him was fake. Emboldened by the knowledge that the gun wasn't real, Tetreault grabbed a pair of black handcuffs that were on the ground to defend himself.
The attacker then started punching him, he said, yelling at him to get back down on the floor of the dark garage.
Tetreault told the packed court he managed to make it out of the building, but he was so weak that his legs wouldn't work and he fell on the gravel driveway.
He testified that he gasped when the man in the black hockey mask grabbed his legs and began dragging him back inside the dark garage.
"Oh, no. How am I going to get away?" Tetreault remembered saying to himself. "I'm pretty much dead."
Tetreault said he managed to flee again and stumbled upon a couple who were walking a dog. He pleaded with Marisa Girhiny and her boyfriend Trevor Hossinger for help as the attacker approached, still wearing the hockey mask.
The attacker then tried to act like he was Tetreault's friend and gestured like he was going to remove the hockey mask, but instead turned around and walked away.
Many of the details of the attack are noted on a deleted file police found on Twitchell's computer in which the writer talks about becoming a serial killer and posing as a woman on the Internet to lure men to a garage. The Crown argues the file is Twitchell's diary. A week later, prosecutors allege, Altinger was lured to the garage in a similar fashion, but did not escape.
Twitchell has pleaded not guilty.
The diary mentions an unsuccessful attack involving a hockey mask and a stun gun on a first victim. It refers to using a fake pistol, ordering the victim to lie down and duct-taping the victim's eyes. It also mentions how the man escapes, is dragged back to a garage and then manages to flee for good by bumping into a couple walking a dog.
Some details of Tetreault's story also mirror a script that Twitchell, an amateur filmmaker, wrote called "House of Cards."
Girhiny testified that she saw Tetreault stumble down an alley and fall to the ground. She said he had a big welt on his face.
"He stood up and said,'You have to help me. This guy is trying to rob me.' And then I looked where he was pointing and there was a guy standing there in a mask," she said.
"At that point I started to freak out."
Hossinger told the jury the mask wasn't fully covering the man's face, but when he tried to take a closer look, the masked man readjusted it. Hossinger said the man didn't say anything and walked back towards a garage and slipped behind a fence.
Hossinger testified that Tetreault appeared to be injured and his clothes were torn.
"He looked at me and said, 'Can you help me? I'm being robbed."' Hossinger said. "I just stood there and took another look at the attacker over by the garage. Again, the victim looked at me and said, 'Can you at least help get me to my car?'
"Again, I looked at him and looked at the attacker, assessed the situation and just turned and walked away."
Tetreault said he managed to get into his truck and drive off. When he got home, he went to check the Internet dating profile for Sheena, but it was no longer on the website.
But he didn't contact Edmonton police until Nov. 2 -- nearly a month later -- after a friend told him about a news report that said Twitchell been charged with first-degree murder.
Tetreault wasn't asked why he didn't contact police sooner.