Twitchell told po­lice of $40 car pur­chase

Miss­ing man’s car same model, colour

Edmonton Journal - - CITY PLUS - alexandra ZaBjek

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.

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