Twitchell admits to garage killing
An Edmonton filmmaker accused of killing a stranger using methods lifted from one of his own grisly movie plots admitted Wednesday he stabbed Johnny Altinger, but insisted it happened in the midst of an armed struggle.
Mark Twitchell testified for the first time Wednesday at his first-degree murder trial.
He said he lured Altinger to an Edmonton garage on the pretext of a date with a woman named Jen — part of an elaborately staged publicity stunt intended to create buzz for his new horror movie project.
But Altinger became enraged when told the woman did not exist, Twitchell testified.
“He became what I perceived to be indignant. His manner projected angry and when he began speaking, it just enforced that,” Twitchell said.
“I said he should probably crawl back to whatever little hole he’d just crawled out of.”
Twitchell, who wept as he spoke at one point, said the two men fought for possession of a length of pipe, exchanging blows. Twitchell said he opened the sheath of a knife in the hopes of scaring Altinger off, and then Altinger advanced on him.
“It was just the sickest feeling ever,” Twitchell said. “I just started to feel this wet sensation around the hand still holding the handle and I let go, instinctively. And then I saw it sticking out of him.
“It’s one of those things when I’m just stuck there and can’t decide what to do. I’m just frozen by inaction. There’s a war going on between screaming out in my head: ‘Call 911!’ But at the same time: ‘How bad does this look? Take a look around. Look at what this place looks like.’”
Twitchell testified that he didn’t do anything to help Altinger.
Prosecutors claim the 31-year-old Twitchell lured Altinger, 38, to the garage on Oct. 10, 2008, and killed him by striking him with a copper pipe and then stabbing him.
The Crown alleges he then dismembered the oil-industry worker, dumping his partial remains down an Edmonton sewer.
The trial has heard excerpts of what prosecutors say is a diary Twitchell kept of his transformation into a killer.
It’s one of those things when I’m just stuck there and can’t decide what to do. I’m just frozen by inaction. There’s a war going on between screaming out in my head: ‘Call 911!’ But at the same time: ‘How bad does this look?’
It has also heard that Twitchell was a fan of the TV show Dexter, which portrays a serial killer who tracks down and murders criminals.
Two weeks before Altinger was killed, Twitchell and a small crew made a short horror movie called House of Cards, based on the idea of a masked killer who goes online to lure married men seeking extramarital sex to their deaths.
“We realized the concept could go farther, so I planned for sequels, other versions,” Twitchell told court Wednesday.
He called his concept “multi-format, psychosislayering entertainment.” He said he wanted to create an “online urban legend” that would create buzz for his work.
Twitchell said he wanted to embark on a new film, book and online entertainment project that would leave his audience questioning whether the events described were fact or fiction.
As part of his project, Twitchell said he went online and created a fake profile on the dating website plentyoffish.com.
He ended up connecting with an Edmonton man named Gilles Tetreault.
Tetreault has already testified at the trial. He has told court he was attacked by a masked man who wielded a stun baton when he went to meet someone he thought was a woman for a date. The attack occurred at the same garage in suburban Mill Woods where House of Cards was filmed.
The attack on Tetreault is described in detail in a 42-page document called SKconfessions, which was found on Twitchell’s laptop computer. Prosecutors allege the document is a “diary” of Twitchell’s lived experiences, and it describes a fatal attack on a second man prosecutors say is Altinger.
But in his testimony, Twitchell claimed that while the document was loosely based on his life experiences, he peppered the text with fiction.
“ The opi ni ons were punched up to indicate a stronger intention of what might have actually taken place,” he told court.
At one point in the document, Twitchell wrote: “I felt stronger, somehow above other people. I felt like the proud owner of a very dark secret that no one would never be in on.”
When asked if he had those feelings after killing Altinger and disposing of the remains, Twitchell said he felt exactly the opposite of strong and powerful.
“I felt a lot weaker, like a piece of scum,” he said. “I felt like I was carrying a serious burden that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to share.”
Twitchell admitted he later drove to Altinger’s apartment, logged onto his e-mail and Facebook accounts, and sent messages to Altinger’s friends, telling them he had met a beautiful woman and had gone on an impromptu holiday.
“It was just a desperate attempt to buy time,” he said. “It wasn’t the best decision to make. It really just comes down to me trying to run away from the situation that I should have just faced head on.”
Almost two years after killing Altinger, Twitchell gave police a map that showed where they could find Altinger’s remains in a residential Edmonton sewer.
Twitchell told court he didn’t provide the sewer location sooner because of his legal advice at the time.
Twitchell’s intent and state of mind at the time of the killing will be key to determining whether he is guilty of a crime, defence lawyer Charles Davison said.
He tried to plead guilty to indecent interference with human remains on the first day of his trial, but Crown prosecutors refused to accept the plea.
Twitchell is to be crossexamined today.