Twitchell told police of $40 car purchase
Missing man’s car same model, colour
A red car Mark Twitchell said he bought from a stranger for $40 was the focus of testimony Thursday at his first-degree murder trial.
Det. Brian Murphy met Twitchell at a 7-Eleven store on the evening of October 19, 2008, to ask the aspiring filmmaker to provide a key for a garage at 57th Street and 40th Avenue that had become the centre of a missing person investigation, he testified.
During the conversation, Twitchell told Murphy he had “some important information.”
Twitchell then recounted a story about meeting a stranger who had tapped on his window in the Mill Woods neighbourhood and offered to sell him a car for $40, because his “sugar momma” was taking him to the Caribbean and would buy him a new car when he returned, Murphy told court.
The man was white, in his late 20s, wore a green windbreaker and had a tattoo of a Celtic knot on his neck, Twitchell said.
According to Murphy, Twitchell said he agreed to buy the car if the stranger would bring it to the Mill Woods garage where he had been filming a short horror movie. But the car — a red Mazda 3 — had a manual transmission, so Twitchell, who couldn’t use a stick shift, asked his friend Joss Hnatiuk to move the car to his parents’ house nearby.
“He was very, very open. He explained everything in great detail,” Murphy said about Twitchell’s tone during the conversation. “He seemed very calm and relaxed.”
Court has previously heard that the missing man, Johnny Altinger, drove a 2005 red Mazda 3.
The conversation between Murphy and Twitchell took place about 18 hours after Twitchell left the southwest division police station, where Det. Mike Tabler had first interviewed him. Twitchell made no mention of the car during the hourlong interview.
But Twitchell e-mailed Tabler shortly before meeting Murphy, relaying the same story about a red car he had purchased for $40. In the e-mail, he wrote that he had forgot to mention a few “odd occurrences” during their initial interview.
“Hi Mike. Listen last night when we were talking I was running on fumes and very tired so I missed a couple of things that come to mind this afternoon that may or may not be important to this case,” he wrote.
In the e-mail, Twitchell described being skeptical when the man offered to sell him the car.
“I’m thinking, ‘Yeah sure whatever, there’s probably two tons of cocaine in the trunk.’ But I heard him out, he was very convincing with a natural easy tone that didn’t seem made up to me,” he wrote.
Twitchell is accused of luring Altinger to the Mill Woods garage by posing as a woman on an Internet dating site and killing him on Oct. 10, 2008.
Hantiuk, who moved the red car for his friend, testified that Twitchell had called him around 5 a.m. on Oct. 19, 2008, shortly after leaving his interview with Tabler.
“He said he was stressed out. He said that it was weird, stuff had been moved around (in the garage) and that the key didn’t work on the door,” Hnatiuk testified.
Hnatiuk had recently worked with Twitchell and a small film crew to make the horror movie, called House of Cards. According to Hnatiuk, Twitchell said police had asked him questions about a missing man and about when he had last been at the film location.
When Hnatiuk mentioned the car in that early-morning conversation, Twitchell seemed surprised.
“He said he’d forgotten about the car and that he must have just blanked.”
It was later that day that Twitchell spoke with Murphy and e-mailed Taber about the car.
Court heard that Twitchell’s story about the red car was relayed to investigators at downtown police headquarters. The investigators decided Twitchell should drive himself to headquarters for further questioning.
“I received information that severely raised my suspicions about Mark Twitchell,” Clark testified on Thursday about his decision to request another interview with the filmmaker.
A portion of the videotaped interview was shown in court. Twitchell appears relaxed in jeans and a track jacket, telling Clark in detail about a recent break-in to his Pontiac Grand Am and the purchase of the red Mazda for $40.
Clark questioned his decision to buy the car without a bill of sale.
“I mean, you get a bill of sale when you buy a house ... Come on, you’re not a young 16-year-old kid here. I mean that seems a little strange to me.”
Twitchell appeared to agree with Clark, then said: “It’s just ... optimism. Trying to hope for the best, I guess.”
Court is expected to view the remainder of the interview between Clark and Twitchell on Friday.