Edmonton

Twitchell's interview with police played for jury

Mark Twitchell denied knowing the man he's now accused of killing in an interview with a police detective that was conducted after police zeroed in on his rented garage as the scene of a possible crime
Mark Twitchell is shown speaking with Det. Mike Tabler on Oct. 19, 2008. (Edmonton Police Service )

Mark Twitchell denied knowing the man he's now accused of killing in an interview with a police detective that was conducted after police zeroed in on his rented garage as the scene of a possible crime.

"Now it's just me. I'm just thinking about this. I mean it's kinda odd that you're filming that kind of thing," Det. Mike Tabler tells Twitchell, referring to scenes he just described filming.

"And we end up going to that garage because of a missing person … who supposedly went there."

"That's really freaky, too," Twitchell replies, "and as soon as they called me on the phone, as soon as [Const.] Maxwell called me and said that, you know, this is what's going on, I got this weird chill."

The tape of the Oct. 19, 2008 interview with Tabler was played to the jury Wednesday during Twitchell's first-degree murder trial in the Court of Queen's Bench in Edmonton.

Twitchell, an aspiring filmmaker, is accused of bludgeoning, stabbing and dismembering Johnny Altinger on Oct. 10, 2008, after luring him to the garage through an internet dating site. 

Police believe the killing mimicked a movie script that Twitchell had written about a serial killer.

In the interview, Twitchell denied ever hearing about Altinger and suggested that someone may have tampered with the lock on the garage door.

Email tells story of $40 car purchase

The next day Twitchell sent an email to Tabler that was read out in court.

"Listen, last night when we were talking I was running on fumes and very tired so I missed a couple of things that came to mind this afternoon which may or may not be important to this case I'd like to tell you about," the email begins.

"I was so focused on trying to stay awake and discuss the topic at hand I blanked on a few odd occurrences that at first didn't seem like they had anything to do with this but now I'm not so sure anymore."

Twitchell goes on to recount how he bought a 2005 Mazda 3 car for $40 from a man who approached him at a south Edmonton gas station.

He then tells Tabler how his regular vehicle was broken into when it was parked at Southgate Mall and that the thief stole a receipt with his address on it. Later that week, he came home to find the front door unlocked.

"I don't mind saying this is all seriously stressing me out," Twitchell writes. He tells Tabler that he's worried that the man who sold him the car is now following him.

"Someone's obviously been tampering with my crap, using it without my awareness, and it's both infuriating and frustrating. My wife can't sleep or eat from worrying about it and I can only imagine what the family of this missing guy must be going through."

Altinger's family members shook their heads and looked down when that line was read to the court.

Twitchell co-operative

Twitchell was helpful and co-operative when approached a week after Altinger went missing in October 2008, the first police officer to make contact with him testified earlier on Wednesday.

Const. Christopher Maxwell was investigating a missing persons case when he called Twitchell at home and asked him to meet at a rented garage in south Edmonton.

Johnny Altinger, seen in an undated photograph, was bludgeoned, stabbed and dismembered. ((CBC))
Twitchell was pleasant and co-operative and agreed to let police into the garage, Maxwell testified.

Maxwell asked Twitchell whether he remembered somebody coming to the garage at 6 p.m. on Oct. 10, he said.

Twitchell told him he was at the garage that day but had left before then, , Maxwell said. Twitchell was shown a photo of Altinger but insisted he didn't recognize him.

When police entered the garage, Maxwell said the first thing he noticed was "the strong smell of something burned."

He also spotted a scorched steel barrel with some kind of charred remains inside.

"I couldn't tell what it was," he said.

Twitchell said he had the barrel delivered to the garage to use as a garbage can. He said the last time he saw it the barrel was not scorched.

Altinger's mother weeps

Earlier in the day Altinger's mother broke down during testimony from Debra Teichroeb, a registered nurse and friend of her son's.  

Teichroeb testified she met Altinger through a dating website in 2006. The romance did not work out but the two remained friends, she said.

In October 2008, she began receiving strange emails from Altinger's address, she told the court.  All contained the same message: that Altinger had met a woman and was going with her to Costa Rica.

"I thought they were odd," Teichroeb said. "The John I knew did not do things on a whim."

Teichroeb told the jury she logged on to the MSN Messenger website and spotted John's status on the instant messaging program.

Through tears, she repeated what his status line said: "I've got a one-way ticket to heaven. I'm never coming back."

When Altinger's mother, who was sitting in the gallery, heard the line, she also burst into tears.

Police believe Twitchell, after the killing, used Altinger's email account to send messages to his friends that he was leaving the country.  

The trial is expected to last four more weeks.

With files from CBC's Janice Johnston

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