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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)

Amateur filmmaker admits to killing stranger he lured to garage Add to ...

An amateur filmmaker admitted Wednesday he lured a total stranger to a garage, knifed him to death, cut up the body and dumped it down a sewer, but he said it was all done in self-defence when a movie publicity stunt went wrong.

"I started thinking to myself, 'How could I have been so stupid?'" Mark Twitchell told jurors at his first-degree murder trial. "All the precautions I took, but you just can't predict human behaviour."

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Mr. Twitchell, 31, is charged in the death of Johnny Altinger on Oct. 10, 2008. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Crown has argued that Mr. Twitchell lured Mr. Altinger to a residential garage that night and killed and dismembered him to match a movie shot in the same garage by Mr. Twitchell and his buddies two weeks earlier.

The Crown has also entered into evidence a text document found deleted on Mr. Twitchell's laptop hard-drive that details an unnamed author's plan to explore his "dark side" and become a serial killer.

Mr. Twitchell said the garage movie, called "House of Cards," gave him the 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 pass code 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.

Mr. Twitchell told jurors that after the movie was shot he came up with a plan to make sequels for "House of Cards" 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.

Through MAPLE, he would put actual people through the same experience as the "House of Cards" victim, but not kill them.

That way, he said, when those people saw the movie, they would text or e-mail 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 Mr. Twitchell, referring to Alice In Wonderland.

He testified that on Oct. 3, 2008, he posed as an Internet date online to lure his first stranger, Gilles Tetreault, to the garage.

Mr. 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 Mr. Tetreault, tell him it was all make-believe and ask him to write about it on the web.

But 10 minutes before Mr. Tetreault arrived, things changed.

"I got this spur of the moment idea," Mr. Twitchell testified. "Instead of going through it in the regular way, I'll actually try to scare this guy."

Mr. 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. Mr. Twitchell agreed that was pretty much what happened.

A week after that, Mr. Twitchell said, he lured Mr. Altinger, 38, to the same garage on the same premise.

But when Mr. Altinger arrived, Mr. Twitchell said he had reverted to his original plan of telling him it was a hoax and asking him to write about it on the web.

Mr. Altinger, he said, "did not seem humoured at it."

The two began swearing at each other. Mr. Altinger called him "pathetic." Mr. Twitchell called him a lovelorn loser. Mr. Altinger then kicked him and the fight was on, he said.

Mr. Twitchell said he grabbed a pipe and smashed Mr. Altinger on the forehead before Mr. Altinger wrested the pipe from him and set to hit him back. Mr. Twitchell testified he grabbed a nearby hunting knife and thrust out in self-defence.

"It was the sickest feeling ever," Mr. Twitchell told court, fighting back tears and biting his lip.

"It all happened so fast.

"I saw it [the blade]sticking out of him."

He told court he didn't call for an ambulance because he knew Mr. Altinger would soon be dead from a wound to the heart. But he said he also knew that a man killed in a garage dressed up like a kill room would make him a murder suspect.

He told the jurors that, in a panic, he cut up the body, tried to burn it, cut it up some more then finally dumped it down a sewer. He said he later broke into his victim's home and wrote e-mails under Mr. Altinger's name to his friends, saying had run off to Costa Rica with a woman. He also stole his printer and laptop.

"It really comes down to trying to run away from something I should've faced head-on from the start."

Mr. Twitchell also admitted that he wrote the 42-page document found on his laptop. He said most of it is an accurate description of his life during those turbulent weeks, though the names were changed.

But he said his preoccupation with serial killer thoughts was just research for his work. And, he said, the death of the Altinger character was made up.

The document details not a fight, but a surprise attack on a defenceless man as he enters the garage.

That didn't happen, said Mr. Twitchell, but he explained he recrafted the death as a sadistic sneak attack to punish himself in a pique of self-loathing.

"It was like trying to kick yourself," he said. "I would write any rude, crass or insensitive thing."

Mr. Twitchell offered at the start of his trial to plead guilty to interfering with human remains, but the Crown rejected the proposed plea.

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