Former wife weeps at Twitchell murder trial

Mark Twitchell's former wife fought tears on the stand Monday in the aspiring filmmaker's first-degree murder trial.

Warning: This story contains disturbing details

Mark and Jess Twitchell are shown on their wedding day in January 2007. (Courtesy Edmonton Journal )

Mark Twitchell's former wife fought back tears in the witness box in an Edmonton courtroom Monday during the aspiring filmmaker's first-degree murder trial.

Jess Twitchell, 35, had been married to Mark Twitchell for less than two years when John Altinger disappeared in October 2008.

Twitchell, 31, is accused of killing and dismembering Altinger after luring him to a rented garage through an online dating site.

On Oct. 20, police came to the Twitchell home in St. Albert, Jess Twitchell said.

"They thought Mark had killed someone, murdered them," she testified in Court of Queen's Bench.

"What did you do?" asked Crown prosecutor Avril Inglis.

"I cried," she replied.

Jess Twitchell said she left the family home that day and never returned.

Jess Twitchell is shown here testifying at the first-degree murder trial of her ex-husband Mark Twitchell on March 21, 2011. (CBC)
Her court appearance Monday is the first time she's seen her husband since, she said. They met on a dating website in the fall of 2005, she said, were married in January 2007 and their daughter was born a year later. 

Jess Twitchell said the marriage was in trouble by the fall of 2008 and they were sleeping in separate rooms. The couple were also in marriage counselling.

The woman fought back tears as Inglis asked about her daughter and cried when viewing photos of the house they once shared. The couple's divorce wasn't finalized until December 2010.

The Crown alleges Mark Twitchell killed Altinger on Oct. 10, 2008, one week after he tried to kill another man who was lured to the same garage but managed to escape.

Jess Twitchell told the court she thought her ex-husband was attending appointments with a psychiatrist on those days.

She also told the court she thought her husband was gainfully employed as a salesman for a security company, but it turned out he had lost the job five months earlier and was pretending to go to work.

Late in the afternoon, the jury heard evidence from David Puff, a videographer who worked on Twitchell's film House of Cards in the fall of 2008.

Puff told the jury the film is about a man who plans an affair and lies to his wife about going to the gym when he is going to meet a woman he met online.

A Taser stun gun is used on the victim. When he wakes up, he's tortured by a man in a hockey mask who kills and decapitates him, Puff testified.

The twist in the film is that the writer is a real life killer, he told the jury.


With files from the CBC's Janice Johnston