|A sketch of Twitchell April 6, 2011|
The Canadian Press/Amanda McRoberts
This was a bad idea and I would never recommended anyone making a film try to scare an unsuspecting person on camera with real weapons. Never do that, ever.
EDMONTON - A lawyer has told jurors that his filmmaker client killed and dismembered a total stranger — not in a deliberate murder, but during a publicity stunt gone horribly awry.
"Events spiralled out of control in a way he didn't expect, and Mr. (Johnny) Altinger lay dead or dying on the floor," Charles Davison said as the defence opened its case Wednesday.
Mark Twitchell, 31, is charged with the first-degree murder of Altinger on Oct. 10, 2008. He has pleaded not guilty.
The Crown has argued that Twitchell lured Altinger to a residential garage that night, killed him and hacked up the body to match a movie shot in the same garage by Twitchell and his buddies two weeks earlier.
After Davison spoke to the jury in his opening address, Twitchell took the stand and said the movie, called "House of Cards," gave him an idea that eventually got out of hand.
The eight-minute slasher flick revolves around a philandering husband who goes to meet a woman he met online. But he is instead Tasered and abducted by a mysterious man in a hockey mask.
The killer takes the husband to a closed room, tapes him to a chair and obtains his computer passcode to clean out his bank account. He tells the victim he is being killed for his cheating ways, runs him through with a samurai sword and hacks up the body parts.
Twitchell told jurors that after the movie was shot he came up with a plan to make sequels and to create a buzz around what he hoped would be a franchise. His idea was for something he called multiple angle psychosis layering entertainment, or MAPLE.
The plan was to put actual people through the same experience as the "House of Cards" victim, but not to kill them. That way, he said, when those people saw the movie, they would text or email friends to say something similar had actually happened to them. That, he believed, would get people talking.
"We would be trying to keep the audience down the rabbit hole," said Twitchell, referring to "Alice In Wonderland."
"We would be going from the reality to the fantasy world, but staying in the fantasy world as long as possible."
He testified that on Oct. 3, 2008, he posed as an Internet date online to lure another stranger, Gilles Tetreault, to the garage.
Twitchell said he had bought knives and created a "kill room" with plastic sheets on the walls and table to catch blood that was part of the hoax.
He said the plan was to surprise Tetreault, tell him it was all make-believe and ask him to write about it on the web.
But 10 minutes before Tetreault arrived, things changed.
"I got this spur of the moment idea," Twitchell testified. "Instead of going through it in the regular way, I'll actually try to scare this guy."
Tetreault testified last week that when he got to the garage a man in a hockey mask tried to incapacitate him with a stun baton. He told court he fought back and managed to escape. Twitchell agreed that was pretty much what happened.
A week after that, Twitchell said, he lured Altinger to the same garage on the same premise.
Twitchell's testimony came after three weeks of evidence from the Crown.
A parade of police and civilian witnesses told the jury that knives, a saw and a meat cleaver stained in Altinger's blood were found in Twitchell's possession and in his car.
Police also found that Twitchell had Altinger's car. He told them at the time that a stranger sold it to him for $40.
The Crown has also entered into evidence a text document found deleted on Twitchell's laptop hard-drive that details the unnamed author's plan to explore his "dark side" and become a serial killer.
Davison said the defence doesn't deny that much of what's in the document reflects Twitchell's life. But not, he said, the part about the murder of a man named Jim, who the Crown says was actually Altinger.
In the document, the writer describes luring Jim to the garage, bashing him on the head with a pipe and driving a hunting blade into his stomach until he bleeds out on the garage floor.
"I blasted him so hard blood spattered everywhere,'' writes the author. "He hit the floor but was still conscious.''
The writer says Jim pleaded and bargained for his life but the author was undeterred.
"I wailed on him again.''
The author then embarks on a graphic, multi-day odyssey to dispose of the remains.
First he chops up the body, then tries to burn it in a barrel. When the parts won't disintegrate, he cuts them into smaller pieces, puts them in garbage bags and contemplates tossing them in a river before finally settling on a sewer.
At the start of the trial, Twitchell offered to plead guilty to a reduced charge of interfering with the remains of Altinger, but that was rejected by the Crown.
Earlier this week, jurors were told that a year before the trial, Twitchell gave police directions to a sewer where Altinger's remains — mostly ribs and a kneecap — were found.