Mark Andrew Twitchell (born July 4, 1979, Edmonton,
Alberta), is a Canadian who was convicted of first degree murder
in the death of John Brian "Johnny" Altinger.
attracted substantial media attention due to the fact that
Twitchell was inspired by the character Dexter Morgan, of the
Dexter television series, a forensic bloodstain pattern
analyst for the fictional Miami Metro Police Department who
moonlights as a serial killer.
Twitchell was an aspiring filmmaker in the fall of 2008. In
September 2008 he shot a short horror film at a garage he rented
in the south end of Edmonton.
John Brian "Johnny" Altinger was a 38 year old
male who worked at an oilfield equipment manufacturer at the time
of his disappearance. He informed his friends that he was meeting
a woman he had met on the online dating website plentyoffish.com.
His friends became concerned when they received strange emails
from Altinger, explaining that he had met a woman who was taking
him on a long vacation to Costa Rica. Altinger's boss received a
resignation letter by email, but never got a response to his
request for a forwarding address for Altinger's final paycheck.
After growing more and more suspicious, several of Altinger's
friends broke into his condo only to find his passport, dirty
dishes and no indication anything had been packed. A homicide
investigation was soon launched by the Edmonton Police Service.
The key piece of evidence presented by the Crown at Twitchell's
first degree murder trial was a document, entitled "SKConfessions"
where the SK stood for Serial Killer, which was recovered from
Twitchell's laptop despite being deleted. The document begins with
"This story is based on true events. The names and events
were altered slightly to protect the guilty. This is the story
of my progression into becoming a serial killer."
It goes on to describe in detail the author's extensive
planning, failed first attempt, and successful second attempt at
murdering a man by luring him to his garage using fake online
dating profiles. It also describes the process of dismembering the
victim's body and his numerous attempts to dispose of the remains.
During his trial, Twitchell admitted to killing Altinger and
authoring the document. However, he contended that he acted in
self defense and that much of the document was a fictionalization
of the events. He claimed that the mindset of the author, which
portrayed the killing as deliberate and intentional, was
sensationalized in an attempt to make a more compelling novel.
Twitchell, convicted of first degree murder in the online
luring death of Johnny Altinger, still faced an attempted murder
charge for his alleged attack on Gilles Tetreault. Tetreault
testified that he was lured off the website plentyoffish.com
expecting a date with a woman, only to be attacked by a man in a
mask with a stun baton when he arrived at a garage rented by
Twitchell. Crown prosecutors had not immediately decided if they
would pursue the charge of attempted murder upon securing a
conviction of first degree murder. But a conviction of attempted
murder would not add to the life sentence Twitchell had already
On June 17, 2011, an attempted murder charge against convicted
killer Mark Twitchell was stayed in the Court of Queen’s Bench of
Alberta. Crown prosecutors have one year to resurrect the charge,
which was laid for an alleged attack by Twitchell on Edmontonian
Gilles Tetreault almost three years ago.
Extensive media coverage of the case created debate both inside
and outside of the courtroom with observers arguing in favour and
against the media reporting on "sensational" details of the crime.
Prior to the criminal trial taking place, Crown prosecutors and
the defence also sought vast publication bans and sealing orders
over the police evidence, preventing the media from reporting on
the details of the case until the jury would hear it during the
future trial. The media fought the application, but the judge
eventually agreed to both a sealing order and publication ban,
stating in his ruling that "there is a real risk that pre-trial
publicity will undermine the accused's constitutionally protected
right to a fair trial."
The jury pool was then polled through a "challenge for cause"
procedure to determine if a potential juror had been influenced by
extensive media coverage prior to the publication bans taking
effect. When the bans were lifted, a substantial media presence
attended and reported on the trial, including American television
programs Dateline NBC and CBS 48 Hours Mystery. A forthcoming true
crime book is also in the works by journalist and author Steve
After his first degree murder conviction, Twitchell used the
extensive media coverage of his case as grounds for an appeal. He
argued in his notice of appeal that "the media attention
surrounding my case was so extensive, so blatant and so overtly
sensationalized that it is unreasonable to expect any
unsequestered jury to have remained uninfluenced by it, regardless
of judges instructions in the charge."The result of his appeal has
not yet been decided.
Killer filmmaker appeals
sentence, blames media
By Toni Blais - Edmonton Sun
May 10, 2011
EDMONTON - Wannabe
filmmaker Mark Twitchell plans to appeal his first degree-murder
conviction in the dismemberment-slaying of John Altinger at a
south Edmonton garage.
Twitchell - who is serving a life sentence with
no chance of parole for 25 years at a Saskatchewan prison - sent a
hand-written notice of appeal that was filed Monday. In it, he
blames the media for the jury's guilty verdict.
"The media attention surrounding my case was so
extensive, so blatant and so overtly sensationalized that it is
unreasonable to expect any unsequestered jury to have remained
uninfluenced by it, regardless of (the) judge's instructions in
the charge," writes Twitchell, 31.
Twitchell also says "sufficient evidence was
presented to raise reasonable doubt on all required bases," but
suggests his defence lawyer did not properly "address key points
on state of mind and credibility."
He says those key points include his "advanced
knowledge" of computers and "significant differences" between
himself and a document found buried in the deleted files of his
laptop called SKconfessions, which the Crown called his diary and
he claimed was a work of fiction.
Twitchell claims his computer knowledge is
"much more advanced" than the average user which undermines the
implication he would use one to "carry out a crime" and "destroys"
the suggestion he deleted SKconfessions to "hide or erase
evidence" or thought it "unrecoverable."
He also claimed the "significant differences in
the philosophical world view and individual search for meaning"
between himself and SKconfessions was not discussed.
Twitchell also goes after Crown prosecutors for
improperly using evidence, including his lying to his girlfriend,
his wife and police, to take away his credibility.
"This led the jury to make an inappropriate and
skewed character judgement, concluding I'm a lifetime liar," he
said, claiming the evidence was only supposed to be used to
determine the veracity of SKconfessions.
"The Crown's theory leans on too many fallacies
of logic and contradictions in reasoning to make any sense," he
concludes. "This must be corrected."
Twitchell was handed a life sentence on April
12 after a jury convicted him of the Oct. 10, 2008, killing of
The Crown alleged Twitchell used an Internet
dating service to lure Altinger, 38, to a rented garage on the
pretext of a date or possible sexual encounter.
Once there, he hit him on the head with a pipe
and used a hunting knife to stab him to death before dismembering
his body and disposing of his remains down a city sewer.
During the three-week trial - which garnered
international attention - the jury heard Twitchell, a married
father, was an aspiring filmmaker who had a fascination with Star
Wars, weapons and TV serial killer Dexter Morgan.
Court heard Twitchell juggled the life of being
a young dad with having a girlfriend on the side and a female
American online pal with whom he shared dark secrets.
Convicted killer Mark
Twitchell played with victim's skull, says court document
By Dean Bennett - The Canadian Press
April 12, 2011
Some of the description in convicted murderer
Mark Twitchell's alleged diary was so lurid that the Crown,
defence and judge decided it was too inflammatory to be presented
to the jury.
Twitchell, 31, was convicted of first-degree
murder Tuesday for killing a stranger, Johnny Altinger, at a
southside garage on Oct. 10, 2008.
The evidence the jury didn't hear was at times
as disturbing as the facts they did hear.
WARNING: Graphic content may disturb some
Twitchell, if one passage on the document found
on his laptop is true, cut the head off his victim and played with
it like a hand puppet.
"I grabbed his jaw with my gloved hand and
moved it while making a funny voice to make it look like it was
talking, and chuckled to myself at the total silliness of it all,"
The passage was among many that were under a
publication ban until the jury was sequestered Tuesday afternoon
to reach a verdict.
Although the names and places were
fictionalized, the Crown suggested the document described real
events in Twitchell's life surrounding the death of Altinger.
Twitchell admitted authoring the document,
which was written in the first person and titled "SKConfessions."
Twitchell said SK stood for his writing hero
Stephen King but said it also meant "serial killer."
The opening line was, "This is the story of my
progression into becoming a serial killer."
However, he insisted it was a work of fiction
based loosely on the events of his life.
He admitted he lured Altinger, and another
stranger a week earlier, to the garage — but said it was not to
He did it as a prank, he said, to encourage
them to help hype a slasher-movie project of his.
The first man, Gilles Tetreault, managed to
fight back and flee the garage, just as described in the document.
But Twitchell testified that Altinger got angry
when he learned of the prank and attacked him. In self defence,
Twitchell said, he knifed him in the heart, then panicked and cut
up the body and dumped it down a sewer.
The "SKConfessions" document described the
death of the Altinger character, named Jim, as a cold-blooded
attack with a pipe, followed by graphic details of the
dismemberment, including the line about working the jaw of the
Twitchell was not asked by either Crown or
defence to affirm or refute specific aspects of the actual
dismemberment, but did not take issue in court with what was
written about the dismemberment in the document.
That information and similar notes were not
presented to the jury because the judge agreed with Crown
prosecutors and the defence that the inflammatory nature of the
material outweighed its value as evidence.
Among the other information not shown to the
jury were the author's thoughts on organized religion and on
murdering human beings.
Religion, he wrote, is for suckers.
"There are no deities or religious undertones
in my life at all," he wrote.
"I have no place for them and I find the whole
concept of religion detestable. It's all a big, corrupt power grab
designed to take advantage of simple-minded common folk."
He talked about cutting open the torso of the
victim and watching the organs slowly collapse. "If I had a sense
of smell this might be disgusting for me. But I only find it
The author talked about killing. "Most people
fantasize and it only ever stays a fantasy. They don't have the
disposition or the stomach to go all the way with their dark
urges. But I do."
Later he went on: "I do not have any
reservations about disposing of the negative people in this world
who deserve a one-way ticket to the afterlife, if such a thing
He said one person he really wanted to dispatch
was an ex-boss.
The man, he wrote, was "a twisted old fart who
hated life and everything in it. I owed it to the world to remove
him from its glorious surface and would take my chance when I was
The author also self-diagnosed himself as
mentally unstable, but Justice Terry Clackson ruled the jury
should not hear it because the terminology was emotionally loaded
and that Twitchell, if he was writing it as the truth, would not
be in a position to properly diagnose himself.
"I had found out through introspection and
discussions with therapists that I am in fact a psychopath in
almost every clinically defined sense," he wrote.