The man who used a dating site to lure his victim to an Edmonton garage before killing and dismembering him is now using a dating site for inmates.
In his profile on Canadian Inmate Connect, Mark Twitchell writes, "I'm looking for an interesting, intelligent, open-minded, delightfully imperfect woman to relate to and share amusing observations with ... as well as potentially a long weekend every few months if it gets there naturally."
In 2011, Twitchell was convicted of the 2008 first-degree murder of Johnny Altinger. Twitchell dismembered Altinger and dumped his remains in a north Edmonton sewer.
Twitchell had testified he lured Altinger to his garage to create online buzz for a short film about a serial killer modelled after TV serial killer character Dexter. He produced the film in the garage two weeks earlier.
Twitchell was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years and is incarcerated in Saskatchewan Penitentiary, near Prince Albert.
"I don't exclude anybody from joining ... depending on their crimes. I just don't do that," said Melissa Fazzina who started the website six years ago.
"I'd seen how popular this was in the United States, this kind of concept, and I realized that there was nothing like this for inmates here in Canada," she said.
Twitchell a 'pathological liar,' sergeant says
Not everyone is in favour of the website, however.
"We have a website facilitating the access of psychopaths to the general public," said Staff Sgt. Bill Clark, one of the original investigators on the Twitchell case. "Let's face it, [with] Mark Twitchell, we've got a narcissistic psychopath and I'm sure he'll be able to fool some woman into writing to him who will fall deeply madly in love with him.
"The guy's a pathological liar. He's going to say whatever he needs to to suck any woman in that he wants to correspond with."
Fazzina charges inmates $35 per year to keep their profiles on the website. There is no cost to those wanting to correspond with the criminals. She decided to keep it going despite the lack of profits.
"It didn't take me very long to realize that there was no money to be made.
"I see the good that it's doing, especially for these inmates. It's life changing for a lot of these guys," she said.
"It helps them while in prison but it also helps those that are coming out to have relationships and friendships and some contact, support from the outside world."
Rob Jones said it made a big difference for him while he was incarcerated.
He's now on parole and living in Calgary, where he runs a transport and snow-removal business. He set up a profile while serving time in Saskatchewan for selling drugs.
"I heard from two or three people and I met a really, really nice lady there," said Jones, who has been in a romantic relationship with the woman since his release in June.
"It took my mind off all that negative stuff that's in prisons. Just focus on getting out and getting back to society and being a normal human being again. It kind of brings the humanity into things."
'It's actually better for the public'
Jones sees no issue with those convicted of more serious crimes using the website. In fact, he believes it reduces potential risk after their release.
"I think it's actually better for the public because it kind of prepares a guy for getting out. Having a relationship and taking on some responsibilities."
Fazzina's website includes a disclaimer so she isn't accountable should anything go wrong. It also advises people not to send money to inmates.
There are risks, as with any social media site, Fazzina said.
"I'm just providing a platform for people to communicate through pen and paper," she said. "Whether somebody chooses to meet in person, that's a different thing."
Inmates in Canada have no access to the internet so must rely on old-fashioned correspondence — pen and paper — to communicate. Almost all include with their profiles at least one photo of themselves, and most appear to be taken in prison.
There are currently more than 30 inmates in Alberta with profiles on the site, and that's more than any other province.
"By far actually, since Day 1, Alberta has been the most popular," said Fazzina. "I'm not sure for what reason that is. I've always had a lot of inmates join from the B.C. area, Edmonton."
Each profile includes the inmate's name, age, where the person is incarcerated and the conviction. Most are serving time for murder, assault or armed robbery.
Clark scoffs at Twitchell's plans for long weekends that are included in his dating site profile.
"I don't know what the rules are up in Prince Albert Penitentiary where he's currently housed, but I guess he must be expecting that since he's been a model prisoner he's going to get some conjugal visits," said Clark.
"Kind of surprising, but I guess people have to be hopeful even when they're in jail."
Clark believes the website puts the public at risk.
"Unfortunately we have some vulnerable, gullible people out there who think these people can be changed and can be rehabilitated and they're the ones that can do it," said Clark.
"We often see that something ends up happening to them. I don't see any good that can come from it."