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Edmonton filmmaker Mark Twitchell is charged with first-degree murder in the death of John Altinger. (Amanda McRoberts/The Canadian Press/Amanda McRoberts/The Canadian Press)
Edmonton filmmaker Mark Twitchell is charged with first-degree murder in the death of John Altinger. (Amanda McRoberts/The Canadian Press/Amanda McRoberts/The Canadian Press)

A piece of paper exposed accused killer's lie, court hears Add to ...

Mark Twitchell is accused of killing a total stranger, then trying to concoct an airtight alibi to match the perfect murder in one of his movie scripts.

But within minutes of meeting Mr. Twitchell, police had a hardware store receipt that suggested the fringe filmmaker was lying, court heard Wednesday.

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Mr. Twitchell, 32, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 38-year-old John Altinger on Oct. 10, 2008.

Prosecutors say they will prove Mr. Twitchell posed as a woman on an Internet dating site to lure Mr. Altinger to a garage on Edmonton's South Side. Once his victim arrived, Mr. Twitched knifed him to death, cut up and burned the body, then dumped the remains in a sewer.

They say the death mimicked a seven-minute slasher movie Mr. Twitchell had just shot and that the slaying was part of his grander plan to become a serial killer.

Constable Christopher Maxwell of the Edmonton Police Service testified Wednesday that he was the first officer to talk to Mr. Twitchell. Police had been called by Mr. Altinger's friends. They hadn't seen him in a week and suspected the e-mails they were getting from him saying he had run off with a woman to Costa Rica were bogus.

Police had tracked Mr. Altinger's last known location to the garage rented by Mr. Twitchell.

Mr. Twitchell denied all, Constable Maxwell said. "They were very brief, short responses," he said. Mr. Twitchell said he hadn't been in the garage for a week and didn't know Mr. Altinger.

Police wanted to look inside the garage, so late on a Saturday night, eight days after Mr. Altinger's disappearance, Mr. Twitchell met Constable Maxwell and Sergeant Colleen Maynes.

He opened the door of the garage. There, under a naked yellow bulb, was a yawning space empty save for a chair, a couple of tables, a steel barrel containing burned debris and sundry soiled bric-a brac.

There was a strong smell of gasoline. Mr. Twitchell said he didn't know how the debris got in the barrel.

On a table were cleaning supplies - ammonia and paper towels - and a receipt for them.

It was dated Oct. 15. Sgt. Maynes recalled that Mr. Twitchell had said he hadn't been at the garage since the 10th.

There was a credit card number at the bottom of the receipt. Sgt. Maynes dialled her cellphone to call Constable Maxwell, who by this time was outside the garage sitting in a patrol car with Mr. Twitchell.

Ask Mr. Twitchell what the numbers are on his credit card, she instructed.

Constable Maxwell did. Mr. Twitchell flipped through his wallet. The numbers matched.

From there, court has heard, the investigation into the missing Mr. Altinger became a murder probe. And Mr. Twitchell's world rapidly became unglued.

Court has heard Mr. Twitchell was a filmmaker trying to break into the business. He had made a low-budget Star Wars tribute movie a few years earlier.

He had a wife, a young daughter, a house in the suburbs and an unsatisfying string of dead-end sales jobs.

He was fascinated by Dexter Morgan, a fictional character in TV and books who works as a police forensic analyst by day and kills strangers in the name of vigilante justice by night.

Prosecutors allege that in the summer of 2008, Mr. Twitchell began scheming a new Dexter-type double life. He bought knives, saws, tape, a hockey mask, a stun baton and handcuffs.

He rented the garage and, over one weekend, he and some friends filmed a short movie about a married man lured to a remote location for an Internet date with another woman.

The movie victim is strapped to a steel chair and threatened with death for his computer pass codes by a man in a hockey mask. He is then killed and dismembered.

Mr. Altinger was not married, but prosecutors say he died in a similar fashion two weeks after the movie was shot. His friends have testified that in the days after his disappearance, someone using his e-mail account sent them notes saying he had quit his job and run off with a woman named Jen.

That didn't sound like Mr. Altinger, they said. The man they knew was not impulsive. He was a planner, hated tropical locales and always ended his e-mails with a joke. They went to his home and found his beach gear and passport.

The Crown has already entered into evidence blood-stained knives, saws and a cleaver found in Mr. Twitchell's possession.

Police later found Mr. Altinger's car a few blocks from the garage at a friend of Mr. Twitchell's. Prosecutors say Mr. Twitchell eventually told detectives he had bought the car from a stranger for $40.

Mr. Altinger's blood was found in the garage and in the trunk of Mr. Twitchell's car.

At the start of his trial, Mr. Twitchell tried to plead guilty to interfering with Mr. Altinger's corpse - but not murder. His plea was rejected.

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