There’s no two ways about it, we’re living in a golden age of great telly. Sure, there are plenty of fresh duds being pumped out by Netflix each week, but for every piece of trash there’s another pure gem — the kind of show that keeps you gripped for days on end. When reality is so dismal and boring, these can be a vital source of escapism, so it’s no wonder that many people want to imitate their TV idols.
That’s why I like to spend my Saturdays in Lannister plate mail, battling Northmen (or “violently assaulting Scottish people in Tesco” as the ‘judge’ calls it). I’d be the first to admit that passion for a good story can make us do some pretty crazy things, and it’s undeniable that some TV shows are definitely better off not imitated.
You can consider today’s case a warning in that regard. So before you go blowing up your garage with that Breaking Bad meth lab, have a listen to the story of Mark Twitchell, a criminal whose silver screen obsession went just a little bit too far.
The story takes place in Edmonton, Canada, where Mark Twitchell was born in 1979. His love affair with TV and cinema went far beyond that of your average sofa-bound binge watcher; from a young age, Mark had aspirations of making it big in Hollywood.
Back in the mid 2000s, he was working hard towards that goal. This was the era of CSI: Miami and True Blood, before Lost had degraded from a trippy fever dream into a basin of feverish sick. The show closest to the heart of this aspiring writer-director, however, was Dexter.
In case you were born yesterday (and somehow got parental permission to listen to me describe murder scenes), Dexter was a series from the Showtime network, which wrapped up in 2013. It tells the story of a forensic analyst who moonlights as a serial killer, and uses his bloody talents to dispose of all kinds of miscreants.
The show ran for 8 seasons, and achieved huge success — the kind of success Mark Twitchell was dreaming of for himself as he wrote his first scripts, and started to get comfortable behind a camera. You don’t just write and produce a hit show overnight though, so there were a few stepping stones to clear first.
In 2007, while working a telecoms sales job, he cut his teeth with first very own feature film, Star Wars: Secrets of the Rebellion. Hardly an original idea, but that was the point — this was a fully-fledged Star Wars fan prequel, set shortly before the events of Episode 4.
I know what you’re thinking, ew fan fiction — isn’t that when people write stories about Super Mario falling in love with that little mushroom guy or something. And yes, unfortunately the vast majority of fan fiction is the product of sexually frustrated madness, but from the sounds of it this was on the higher end of the quality spectrum. To their credit, the team actually managed to land a cameo from Jeremy Bulloch, the original Boba Fett.
In an interview from back in 2006, writer-producer-director Twitchell said:
We tell the story of how Han Solo set the Kessel run record, and how he names his ship as well as revealing why he had to ditch his cargo. […] The alternate story tracks show what happened to the last Jedi left in the galaxy apart from Ben and Yoda, how the Death Star plans were stolen and what the Empire had to go through in order to track them down.
Sounds a hell of a lot like Solo and Rogue One, but I’m sure this budget Canadian fan flick told the stories waaay better. We’ll never know for sure though, because the whole thing got caught in post production, most likely due to… certain events which will soon become clear.
As a result, Disney reaped all that sweet sweet Star Wars spinoff cash, and we’ll never get the Boba Fett – Chewbacca romance plotline we’ve all been crying out for. Damn you George Lucas.
After shooting wrapped up on his Star Wars film, Twitchell was hard at work on his next projects, both personal and professional. He had recently married his second wife, with whom he had his first kid. Meanwhile, he drafted up a terrible-sounding comedy called Day Players, raised a decent chunk of funding for it, then rented out a garage as the set for a short thriller film.
This was House of Cards, but not the one in which Kevin Spacey delivers menacing soliloquies to camera for five years before being dragged out back and cancelled. This House of Cards was actually Twitchell’s first attempt at emulating his new favorite show, Dexter, which had premiered two years before.
You can actually find the whole script for this online. But if reading through a film student’s derivative short film doesn’t sound all that appealing, don’t worry, I’ve already taken that bullet for you. Here’s a rough overview:
The story opens with Roger, a middle aged man sitting nervously at his computer. On his screen is a website for married people to find partners to cheat with. Naughty Roger. After closing his laptop, he says bye to his family, and drives to a house somewhere across town.
Before old Rog can do anything with his rod, someone comes up and gives him prod — he’s attacked from behind with a stun baton, and knocked out. He wakes up in a garage, gagged and taped to a chair. Across the room, he sees a laptop with superhero stickers on the back, sitting atop a table.
The computer belongs to the character called “Killer”, which is kind of a spoiler when you’re reading the script rather than watching it. Killer is wearing a black apron and gloves, and a black hockey mask with a yellow bear claw motif across it. Yeah, a bit like Jason from Friday the 13th — I warned you it was derivative.
What’s even worse is that the next few pages of dialogue are mostly dominated by Killer spewing out cliched lines, which I’m pretty sure were plagiarized directly from Saw: “You chose to ignore the consequences,” and all that.
Basically, the reason he brought Roger there is to punish him for his infidelity by stealing money from his credit card, threatening him and his family if he doesn’t comply. First he gets Roger’s dating site and email passwords from him to delete the digital paper trail, then his pin number.
He tells Rog that if he plays it cool and doesn’t try to report the whole affair to the police, he’ll be able to go on with life as usual. If not, he’ll be framed for murder and his family will die. Then Killer heads off to the ATM, apparently still dressed in him maniac murderer get-up.
When he returns, he tells Roger that actually, he’s decided to kill him, explaining that he realized his original plan was stupid so he feels like changing it. Solid pot development Twitchell — that’s some real David Fincher-esque intrigue. After the arbitrary and underwhelming announcement, Killer goes about fulfilling the promise of his name, but not before one last contrived slog of a monologue.
It sounds like Twitchell had a bit of an affection for Tarantino’s Kill Bill too, because the script directions reveal that Killer’s weapon of choice is an “exquisite folded steel samurai sword”. After sending some emails from his victim’s account claiming he’s ran off to start a new life, he takes the sword down from the wall, turns to Roger, and with no hint of irony says:
Do you know what this is Roger? This is a work of art. Samurai swords have a history of taking out the trash my friend. They were used to defend and regain honor from a place of dishonor. This is a perfectly tempered folded steel weapon, built for one purpose.
The script doesn’t specify whether the killer sports a fedora and a neckbeard poking out under the mask, but after that monologue we can safely assume so. It’s the sort of thing some YouTube incel says before slicing their finger off trying to battle a watermelon.
Killer is a little more adept with a blade though; he cuts off Roger’s head, before honorably hacking him to pieces with a power tool and bagging up the pieces. Standard slasher film stuff.
There’s one last scene though, that in the grander scheme of things would prove pretty significant indeed. In the last few seconds of the film, a character called Writer (played by Twitchell) is sitting in his home office. His distinctive superhero-stickered laptop sits in front of him, with a movie script on the screen.
It’s basically the script I just summarized for you, inspired by the events which any unfortunate viewers just had to sit through for the past eight minutes. Then Writer — and I quote: “Leans back staring intensely at his laptop screen and puts his hands behind his head taking a deep sigh in relief that he’s just finished something solid.”… Hmm. I definitely wouldn’t go that far.
The very last shot is him saying goodbye to his wife, and walking outside with his bag of murder utensils slung over his arm. On his way out the door, he says to his missus: “It’s true when they say the best way to succeed is to write what you know.”
Now, I know I like to [make fun/take the piss], but that wasn’t the worst ending in the world. I mean, Game of Thrones season 8 happened, as much as we’d like to forget. However, if you were irritated by the little meta flourish which capped off Twitchell’s debut thriller, let me warn you there’s a whole lot more where that came from.
We already know that this Canadian George Lucas wannabe was a little short on fresh ideas, but his biggest act of creative recycling was yet to come…
Open scene: a 38-year old oilfield equipment manufacturer named John Brian Altinger — Johnny to his friends — sits at his laptop. On the screen is the popular dating site Plenty of Fish, known as “old person Tinder” to all of the under 25s listening. Johnny has always been a tech fanatic, so while online dating was still a taboo for some, he was [diving right in/diving in headfirst — both heads].
A notification pops up on his screen. He’s received a message from a woman in his town — a good looking woman, too. Her name is Jen. The two chat for a while, before deciding to meet up on Friday, October 10th for a bit of whatever it is people do with attractive strangers they meet online. Scrabble?
If finding such a captivating board game partner seemed too good to be true for Johnny, that’s because it was. Just like every damn time I click on one of those “Hot [Singles/MILFs] in Your Area!” banners, it would all turn out to be a bitter-tasting lie…
Fade to black.
Interior: Johnny’s apartment, daytime. A group of men force open the door and search around the place frantically, looking for any sign of their friend’s whereabouts.
It’s now the middle of the week after Johnny went off to meet his new love interest in person, and things have taken a strange turn. A couple of days after the rendezvous, he had started messaging his friends and family, telling them he and Jen had decided to take a spur of the moment holiday to Costa Rica, as you do. His MSN Messenger bio read: “I’ve got a one-way ticket to heaven and I’m not coming back.”
An email also found its way into the HR inbox at the Argus Machine factory where he worked, tendering his resignation. When the company replied asking where they should send his final paycheck, he never even bothered getting back to them.
It must have been a damn good hookup to make him give up his entire life after just one night, which is why everyone who knew Johnny started to grow worried. They police however, were reluctant to devote much time to the case of a missing grown man who was still apparently in contact with his relatives.
But the messages just were just… off. Johnny usually signed off his emails with a smiley face or some little joke, however the ones he had been sending out en masse recently were pretty robotic. The sort of messages you’d expect from someone who went off to join a cult, like: [jokingly] ’Do not fear dear relatives and/or friends. I am happy and well. Do not try to contact me.’
When they tried to get more information out of him, he just deflected their requests, and told them that the phone signal was too weak down in paradise to be able to call them. That’s what led to the current scene, in which his friends have kicked in the door of his apartment to find out where Johnny has gotten to.
Strangely, he hadn’t bothered taking his passport to Costa Rica, nor any of his clothes or other belongings. What’s more, one of his two treasured two motorbikes was parked out front without a cover, which he would never do. His friends decided that was all the confirmation they needed, and they called the police again to report the suspicious circumstances.
As I said, the cops had been reluctant to treat the disappearance as suspicious so far, but with it becoming increasingly clear that the person on the other end of the emails was not Johnny, they were forced to up their game.
Investigating the Garage
By this point I think you’ve probably predicted where this blockbuster is heading. With the pressure on to find out what happened to Johnny, the police decided to follow up on the strongest lead they had so far. It was handed to them by one of Johnny’s mates, Dale Smith.
He had been suspicious of the whole situation from the get-go, on account of the strange stipulations the lucky lady had for Johnny’s arrival. He was to park in the alley out the back of her house, and walk through the open shutter doors of the detached garage to get into the property. Pretty strangely specific.
Dale asked Johnny to give him a call when he arrived at the love den, and took down the address in case anything happened. When the police initially came to interview Johnny’s friends the first time, Dale was able to provide them with the details he had noted down (good man Dale — let’s all be more like Dale). And that wasn’t all: as it turns out, he did receive the call he asked for. He was right to be suspicious — something seemed off when Johnny arrived.
Instead of a beautiful blonde greeting him when he walked into the garage, he bumped into some pudgy film geek showing off his film props. Johnny didn’t give much of a description, just that he was taken aback by the whole thing, his date wasn’t home yet, and he had decided to leave. Not long after, Dale received an email suggesting it had all been a misunderstanding, which read: “She’s home now. I’m heading over again. HEHE!”.
Dale told all of that to the police, who were able to do a quick check of the Edmonton city records to find out the name of the tenant. A group of Mexican immigrant workers were set up in the house, but the garage was leased out separately. As you might’ve guessed, the name listed was Mark Twitchell. This garage was the exact same place where he had brought the painful-to-read House of Cards to life just two weeks before.
Since it was a film set, plenty of people had come and gone through the place. The police had to ascertain exactly who would have access to the unit, and who the mystery gal Jen could have been. Him being the primary keyholder, they asked a bewildered Twitchell to come down and open up the garage for them on the 19th of October. He gladly obliged, driving to the south side of town to help the police in their investigation.
When he met the officers at the garage, however, he discovered that the padlock on the latch was different from the one he had fastened onto it before. The officers managed to pry the screws out of the latch, and Twitchell swung the door open for them. Inside, he noticed that some things were out of place; trash bags were missing, and a steel oil drum ordered for the film had seemingly been used as a fire pit.
After that, he went with the police to the station to give a statement. In an interview with one Detective Tabler, the aspiring artist revealed that he had been back to the garage on the afternoon of the 10th to collect some trash. Then again on the 15th to drop off cleaning materials which would be used to scrub away any of the sticky fake blood mixture — made of corn syrup — left over from the film shoot. He didn’t know anything about a Jen, or a Johnny.
His answers to the practical questions were pretty aimless and rambling. What really got him talking though, were questions about his film projects. Seriously, the 47-page transcript could’ve been cut down to five if the man had just shut up about Star Wars.
It follows a rhythm of questions about padlocks and latches, followed by minutes-long monologues about breaking into the film industry. Each time Detective Tabler snaps him back on topic, Twitchell soon finds another chance to go off on a waffling tangent.
In the end though, the detective is able to get a decent account of events from him. Went to the garage two times recently, didn’t see anyone there, didn’t notice anything strange. When told that Johnny met a man inside the garage, Twitchell replies “that would explain some things”, meaning the mysterious change of padlock in the past few days.
He explained that it couldn’t have been related in any way to his crew or the movie, because all production instructions came from him. Someone must have broken in, and potentially used the garage for some illicit purposes.
Cue more verbal detours, with Twitchell bragging about how great his budget sets on Secrets of the Rebellion looked, and ranting about his past bankruptcy, before Tabler desperately tries to wrap things up, much like everyone who ever met Twitchell at a party must have done.
Given his compliance during that interview, and the lack of any clear evidence of foul play, the police had no real reason to definitively suspect Twitchell. However, Detective Tabler couldn’t quite get over the coincidence: the man had been shooting a film about an abduction and murder at the exact same place police were investigating a suspicious disappearance.
Things would only get stranger from here. By the next day, the police had also gotten the chance to interview some other witnesses, including Twitchell’s production staff. They were kind enough to provide a copy of the script for House of Cards. The similarities between the film’s story and the real-life details of the case were undeniable.
Convinced that here was something he wasn’t telling them, the cops decided to have another crack at Twitchell on the 20th. This time the slash-rate Scorsese was put in the hot seat by veteran homicide detective Bill Clarke, the new lead on the investigation ever since it had been officially upgraded to a suspicious disappearance.
He would be Twitchell’s arch nemesis — the Vader to his Kenobi — in Interview Part 2: The Edmonton PD Strikes Back.
Interview Part 2: The Edmonton PD Strikes Back
Now, if you’re looking for a crash course in how to be a world-class police interrogator, I recommend giving this transcript a read. There’s more genuine drama in those 89 pages than anything our antihero ever cooked up in his brief career.
Detective Clark is careful to say right off the bat that he doesn’t want to hear a damn thing about any films; he’s here to understand exactly what went down at the garage. After that, he gives the first lesson in interrogation 101: when a nervous man wants to talk, let him talk himself into knots. And Christ, did Twitchell not do just that.
There were so many amendments to his story, you’d think he was workshopping a second draft for creative writing class. He now claimed that his car had been broken into recently, and several things had been stolen: mainly a pair of sunglasses, and the rental receipts for the storage unit.
He speculated that the thief could’ve maybe thrown that paperwork away, and someone else picked it up, and then maybe went to the garage and… No, he realized that was a stupid angle halfway through, and just abandoned it.
Better to go with the faaaar more believable story, that the missing man had randomly approached him and sold him his car. Yep, the police knew Twitchell was in possession of the victim’s ride by this point, so he invented the most madcap story to explain it.
On the 15th, while on his way to drop off the cleaning materials at the garage, he stopped to take a call at a strip mall. Some guy knocked on his car window, and told him:
“I shacked up with this really rich lady uh you know it’s like a sugar momma kind of situation and she’s gonna take care of me and she’s even gonna buy me a new car when we get back from a vacation that we’re gonna take. So I’m just looking to unload mine and don’t really care that much how much I get for it you know. How much do you have on you?”
Apparently the guy agreed to the joke price of 40 dollars, so Twitchell directed him to the garage just a couple of blocks away, where he handed over the money and took the registration papers. Apparently the gentleman had introduced himself as Martin, and had a Celtic knot tattoo on one shoulder. Strange, because when he checked the registration papers later, he thought they said Mark K, or something similar, he wasn’t sure.
After a hasty transaction, the mystery man took off, and Twitchell called his friend to come take the car to his driveway, since he couldn’t operate a manual gearbox. Detective Clark pushes him on why he apparently didn’t think to get a bill of sale, telling him “[…] come on, you’re not a 16 year old kid here”. But Twitchell just continues playing dumb as to how a car sale actually works — no officer, I really am 16 years old mentally, I swear.
The overgrown teen was no match for the grizzled old cop. Again and again, Detective Clark stopped Twitchell dead whenever he tried to skip forward to the parts he had already prepared in his head, forcing him to fill the gaps with fluff and nonsense.
Then, when he gets to the end of his story, Clark makes him run through it all in reverse, much like how traffic police bamboozle drunk drivers with the backwards alphabet trick. After that, the seasoned detective leaves the suspect stewing in the interview room for a full 30 minutes, before coming back to deliver some verbal right hooks. Things were about to get tense for Twitchell, when Detective Clark point-blank asks him:
“Do you think if there’s been foul play to John that the person who did this to him deserves a second chance under any circumstances?”
“Uh I would say no,” replies Twitchell.
On the tape, you can see the anxiety start to creep in as the suspect realizes his story might not be quite as waterproof as he assumed. Another 20 minutes of stewing alone in the interview room, before the glorious final act. The gloves are fully off now, and Twitchell’s day, week, and life are all about to be succinctly ruined. Clark straight up tells him:
“There’s something else I wanna tell you Mark and that’s that there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that you’re involved in the disappearance of John Altinger. No doubt in my mind at all Mark.”
The detective lays all his cards out on the table. First, the neighbors spotted Twitchell going to change the lock on the garage, the same lock which he told the police he had no idea about. On top of that, officers had also already spoken to his friend Joss, who he called to move the car — their stories didn’t match.
Reality was coming down hard, but Twitchell still couldn’t get his head out of TV-land. He says he feels like he’s, and I quote, “In the fuckin’ Twilight Zone.” But Clark tells him:
“[…] get outta your film producer mode […] Cuz this is real life. Alright. Real life. If you were telling me the truth you would have one story. One story that would flow from beginning to end. And you could repeat that one hundred times. With no changes in the story. Yours is so bad.”
It’s a shame the cut-rate Kubrick wasn’t taking notes, because he’d probably have picked up some tips on how to write better dialogue. The detective doesn’t bother with any praise sandwiches as he dishes out some harsh, harsh criticism of Twichell’s narrative.
Namely that he never mentioned any car sale in the first interview, gave three different reasons for why he stopped for gas, and threw out dozens of little half-baked red herrings. All Twitchell does is shut down. He admits he’s scared, alludes to his own guilt, and asks for some time to think and sleep (ie: to cook up a new story now that the neighbors have completely screwed him over).
Laptop and Car
For the moment, Twitchell was free to go. The statements of the other witnesses weren’t yet complete enough to solidify the suspicion into an arrest warrant, but it was only a matter of time. Soon the neighbors would pick the wannabe director’s picture out of a lineup, and he’d be taken in for good. For the moment, they just placed him on round-the-clock surveillance.
While they waited, there was plenty more to chew on. Twitchell had driven his car down to the station for the interview, and the police were luckily able to seize it. If they struggled finding it in the car park, the license plate DRK JEDI would have been a dead giveaway. Inside the Jedi master’s starship, they found his laptop, which had Spiderman stickers plastered on the back. Sound familiar?
The digital forensic team went through the whole thing with a toothcomb, presumably trudging through all sorts of script fragments and test shoots that thankfully never saw the light of day. But their most interesting find was buried deep inside the deleted files of the computer.
I know I’ll be giving some of you sweaty palms by saying this, but when you delete files from your recycle bin, they’re not actually gone for good. Anyone with the will and the knowhow could easily dig into your laptop and recover the clip of that ill-fated evening with the whipped cream and the chocolate sauce. You know the one I mean. (Dirty bastard).
Don’t panic though. Nobody cares what you get up to in your spare time, unless you’re suspected of murder, of course. The cops were probably expecting the usual digital dross which turns up in these searches, but what they ended up finding was every investigator’s dream; something which not only blew the case open, but did so in excruciatingly candid detail.
Several days after Twitchell walked free, Detective Clark was just about to wrap up for the day. On the way out the door, a colleague stopped him, and gestured towards a stack of papers sitting on a desk. Apparently the IT guys had left something for him, related to the Twitchell case.
The detective flicked through the first few sheets of the pile, and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Just to confirm he wasn’t losing it, he read over the first line again:
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.
Clark turned to his coworker: “It’s a diary of how he killed the guy!”
[END OF PART 1]
Welcome back to the story of Mark Twitchell: writer, director, and possible murderer. To recap, we have a missing man. He disappeared from a garage being used as a film set by a local director. To make matters stranger, the circumstances of the disappearance are eerily similar to the plot of his film, and he’s been far from truthful in his dealings with the police.
When we left off, the digital forensic team had just decoded some deleted documents from Twichell’s computer, and recovered what Detective Clark called “a diary of how he killed the guy”.
I couldn’t have put it better myself. What the forensic team had found was a document entitled SK Confessions — probably short for Serial Killer Confessions, and you’ll see why. I’d hope that cliched name was just the working title, but the one thing we’ll never be accusing Twitchell of is originality.
Once again, you can find this document online in its entirety: 42 pages of horrifically overwrought prose straight out of a film undergrad’s waste paper basket. And once again, I’ve done the hard part so you don’t have to. Prepare yourself for every little detail of Mark Twitchell’s descent from bang average filmmaker to atrociously unsuccessful murderer.
He begins by describing the feeling of lightness when he first decided to become a serial killer, like he was finally free to be himself. This meant embracing the fact he was “different from the rest of humanity” (thank Christ) and couldn’t feel empathy or sympathy. Ooh edgy.
But it gets better. He talks about not wanting to admit these things to therapists, because that would leave a trail of breadcrumbs, and he’s not stupid. Instead, he just made a goddamn movie detailing his whole methodology and showed it to everyone he knew. There are plenty of passages like that which have aged like milk, but if we stop to [make fun of/take the piss out of] each one we’ll be here all day. So moving on.
Next is the planning stage, in which Twitchell discusses choosing middle aged single men as his targets, because they had plenty of cash to steal, and could be easily drawn in — “led by their dicks” as he so eloquently puts it.
After choosing the garage as the best location for his crimes, he goes about traveling to different stores around town to pick up his murder materials: the mask, overalls, a hoodie, a hunting knife, plastic sheets, plastic bags, duct tape, stun baton, fake gun, and a wild game processing kit. Basically everything you’d expect to find in the “recommended for you” section of a serial killer’s Amazon account.
If you’re wondering why he needs a game processing kit, Twitchell is happy to explain. He writes: “[…] there’s also just something more gratifying about sawing through tendons and bones with your bare hands […].” We’re only about 10% of the way through, so if you’re feeling queasy already then you might want to take a minute. It only gets worse from here.
The steel drum was the last item to arrive at this quote “little workshop of horrors”, intended to be used as a makeshift incinerator for the body parts. Now his location was all set up, he got to work on casting his little murderous fantasy.
This meant downloading software to block his IP address, and setting up fake dating accounts. Over the next few days, Twitchell sieves through hundreds of messages from excitable bachelors. He picks candidates he thinks will be easy to overpower, because as he says “I have my own fight training background but I don’t have delusions of grandeur”. Ehm, I’m not sure that plastic lightsaber duels in your mum’s back garden count mate…
After a little bit of digging, he found his hot date for the weekend, who went by the name of Frank. Frank was given the same strange instructions we heard before: park at the back of the house, then enter through the garage. By this point, the whole place was covered in plastic sheeting, ready to receive him.
As Frank turned off his headlights and walked into the garage, a masked Twitchell pressed the stun baton into the back of his neck, and fired it off. As often seems to be the case in Twitchell’s schemes, the results were… underwhelming. Frank was just a bit bewildered and irritated, rather than knocked out cold.
A fight ensued, but Twitchell had no cause for alarm, because in his own words: [say mockingly] “I had a distinct advantage. I was taller and outclassed him in tenacity and strength.” Making use of the element of surprise, he landed a good few hits with the side of the baton, before drawing the fake gun.
Frank stopped dead when he saw the weapon, and started to comply. He got down on his knees and let Twitchell duct tape his eyes shut. A clearly frustrated Twitchell then describes how the “defiant little shit” had a change of heart, and ripped off the tape. Frank grabbed the gun, realized it was fake, and threw some hits which Twitchell claims he “easily deflected”. Perhaps I judged this pudgy Bruce Lee too harshly.
Cue another short struggle, before Frank runs out of the garage door. Twitchell chases him down the alleyway, before a couple walking down the street spot the masked maniac bolting out onto the street. An awkward moment passes as they all stop and stare at each other, while Frank disappears into the distance.
Not sure what else to do at that point, Twitchell just shuffled back to his little plastic-coated corner to have a good long think about what he’d done.
No, not really. That would require some self-awareness. Twitchell actually just got to work stripping down the place (which I need to remind you, was rented in his own name, making this all pretty much pointless). After tossing out anything incriminating and wiping down the rest, he messaged Frank on Plenty of Fish.
He told him that he knew where he lived, because he had “tracked his IP address”: the same lie told by every 12 year old I ever beat on Halo 3. That was one of a trio of fibs, the others being that the garage didn’t belong to him, and that he had already claimed 17 victims before. Fake it till you make it, I guess. That’s what I always tell my 1.3 billion subscribers.
As he drove home, he thought about how “this douchebag would call the police”. Yeah Frank, what a douche move, reporting your own attempted murder. Not cool. But bizarrely, the lucky escapee seemed to agree with the sentiment — no police ever came knocking at the door, nor sniffing around the garage.
Not a single report from anyone involved was filed. Which begs the question, what in the hell kind of kinky masked madness did that couple think they were witnessing? Their laissez faire attitude might be down to the fact that Twitchell had sent out flyers around the neighborhood, explaining that he’d be filming a thriller there. If what the couple witnessed really were just a rehearsal, then the terrified Frank would surely be in line for an Oscar.
Over the next few days Twitchell was hard at work practicing his own lines, reciting his flimsy alibi over and over in his head. He was planning to tell the police that he had been lying to his wife about a therapy appointment in order to get some alone time, meaning nobody would be able to verify his whereabouts.
The paper-thin alibi would surely have fallen apart pretty fast, but like I said, no police ever came to test it. As the days rolled on, Twitchell’s anxiety subsided enough that he was confident at having another go at making his fantasies a reality.
So ends part one of the memoirs of Mark Twitchell: the Mr Bean Killer. Oh no — sorry — The Dexter Killer. Easy mistake to make.
Part two opens with a love story. And in true Twitchell form, a cringey cliche: “Oh my sweet Laci,” the first line reads. He goes on to tell the story of how he met the lovely Laci, an ex-girlfriend with whom he was still enamored, while studying at university. He proceeded to charm her with a series of lies, but was disappointed to find she had a boyfriend. Unsurprisingly, the horrifically insecure Twitchell hated him, and all of her partners who followed.
Despite Laci’s romantic attachments, the two enjoyed a horrifically unstable relationship for several years, until she found God and he decided he wasn’t into her as much any more. Well, that and the fact that she discovered he’d lied about both his age and ethnicity for no reason at all. She cut off all contact, and both went on to have their own failed marriages over the next few years.
Bizarrely, in the text Twitchell lays into Laci’s ex-husband for being a sociopath, when he literally just boasted about being incapable of empathy a few pages earlier. It’s almost as if he has no idea what any of these words actually mean. Hmm.
By the time Twitchell married his second wife, Laci was happily single, and he managed to track her down through Facebook. Infidelity is hardly the worst of his crimes, but we might as well add it to the list. He exchanged some messages with his old flame, and went off for a secret rendezvous while his wife Tess was 3 months pregnant at home.
Despite claiming to be a sociopath incapable of remorse, Twitchell ended up feeling incredibly guilty after all. He spilled the beans to his wife about the whole thing, and by some miracle she forgave him. Although, this little episode probably explains the paragraph later in the text, in which he explains how sleeping in a separate bed from your wife and living in your own basement is totally normal, and screw you if you think otherwise.
We know that Twitchell doesn’t have great impulse control, so after about a year the Jedi master was right back at it, swinging his lightsaber where it didn’t belong. Bear in mind that way back at the start of the memoir, he considers trying to murder cheating husbands, so that he can “take out the trash”. The hypocrisy is strong with this one.
Anyway, with that little romantic interlude out the way, back to the horror.
For his next endeavor, Twitchell decided to switch out the pathetically ineffective stun baton for a pair of steel pipes. He also cooked up a fresh dating account, this time on Plenty of Fish, and wrote the profile “delicately, sweetly, as a woman would write.” I swear I’m not putting words in his mouth, this is genuinely how he thinks.
This one managed to rope in a mark who wasn’t available on Friday, the time of Twitchell’s fake psychiatry appointments. Frustrated, he made a fresh account which explicitly stated its owner was looking for hookups, not dating. He actually managed to rope in the exact same bachelor, now falling into his catfish trap for a second time. This time, with the promise of a more casual encounter, he said he was available Friday.
On the night of the main event, Twitchell waited in his garage, dual wielding his two pipes like he must have seen in a movie oncel. The man he calls Jim walks into the dark garage, and calls out to see if anyone’s there. Twitchell panics and, because he’s an idiot, decides to take his mask off and introduce himself.
He explains that he’s a local filmmaker, setting up the garage to look like a serial killer’s den. Jim was warned someone was using the garage for the weekend, but this awkward dude was not at all what he had expected. A flustered Twitchell started showing off his fake gun, and spewing lies about the lucky lady stepping out of the house for a few minutes.
Amazingly, he then just let Jim walk out the door. It’s not like he had a change of heart about his murderous plans — he was really just that bad at being a serial killer. Jim returned after 20 minutes, and Twitchell pretended to talk to his date on the phone, telling him she was caught in traffic and wouldn’t be able to make it. Jim left annoyed.
Twitchell, now starting to realize he maybe didn’t have it in him to emulate his TV idol Dexter, started desperately sending out messages on Plenty of Fish to get a last minute hook-up. Literally anyone would do at his point (I’ve been there mate…).
But while he was scraping the bottom of the barrel for a new victim, he got another stroke of luck. Jim messaged the account, and offered to return later that evening — he didn’t live far away, so it wasn’t too much trouble. ‘Jen’ agreed, and told him she’d be home around 9pm.
When Jim arrived back at the agreed upon time, the slapstick slasher had hyped himself up. He struck his victim on the back of the head with a pipe, and was once again shocked that real life doesn’t unfold like the movies. Jim wasn’t knocked unconscious — he fought back, but unfortunately wasn’t able to fend off his attacker. Twitchell managed to crack his skull with the pipes.
At this point in the story, the soon-to-be killer mocks his victim for bargaining for his life, before describing how he stabbed him in the stomach and neck with a hunting knife. He writes: “His reaction was pure Hollywood.” Finally reality was adhering to his fantasies, and everything was back on track.
Twitchell had become the killer he was so pathetically desperate to cast himself as. But as we know, it wouldn’t be long before the police pulled the plug on his little one-man show…
The next scene in the grisly drama deals with the disposal of the body. While we move forwards, imagine yourself as Detective Clark. You’ve just interviewed this guy days before on suspicion of murder, and now you sit flicking through a play by play account of how he actually dismembered the victim. It’s quite surreal.
The account starts by describing the instruments in the game processing kit: knives, bigger knives, a handsaw, and scissors. Then it ells how he cut the clothes off the victim and threw them into the oil drum. Bizarrely, Twitchell decided to leave the boxers on so he didn’t have to look at another man’s privates while he butchered him. I’m not diagnosing him with a neurotic inferiority complex per se, but you definitely can if you want.
For the sake of decency I won’t talk about every step and cut of the process from here on. If you’re really interested you can seek that out yourself. For our purposes, it’s more important to look at the callousness he approached it with. Twitchell recounts:
“Dismembering a human body was a relatively unexciting event. But I had ways of making it more fun. I sang to myself as I worked, talked to myself, reflected on the new tools I would get to make the next one easier.”
Who knows if that really reflects how he felt, or if he was just trying his hardest to imitate Dexter, because he thinks being a psychopath is cool. My vote is with the latter, but it’s a tough read regardless. He goes through each step, and describes how different the reality of the gore is to the Hollywood versions, proving just how deep he’s immersed in his fantasy world.
The garage cleanup also took much longer without a montage sequence to speed things along. Twitchell tore down the sheeting and scrubbed all of the stains with ammonia, which would apparently destroy the DNA in the blood. And what a lot of blood there was — on the walls, the floor, his clothes.
As he thought about how best to get rid of his blood-soaked threads, his wife Tess rang. He had been away for over three hours now, and it was almost 10pm. He had to spin a lie about going to the gym, but his Tess was already suspicious after she caught him browsing Plenty of Fish a few days before. She was probably expecting another affair, but the reality was… a bit worse.
He managed to weasel his way out of it for the time being, and got back to business. It was at this point that our antihero realized he’d made another glaring mistake — the car of his victim had a manual gearbox, which he was not equipped to deal with.
After some trial and error he managed to conceal it inside the garage, and went off home to face the missus. She had asked him to stop off at the store for baby formula on the way, but they had all closed by the time he wrapped up at the garage. He got up early in the morning to grab some instead, shifting from killer to father mode while he did so.
His daughter was about eight months old by this point, and he spent the Saturday after the killing looking after her. In his confessions, he writes:
“If anyone ever threatened her happy innocent existence in any way I would kill them, cut up the body, and make it disappear. Most people actually say that about their children, only I actually mean it literally.”
I’m… not sure people usually add in the part about carving up a corpse, but I think I get what he means. After an uneventful Saturday with the little one, he gets up early on Sunday to enact the second phase of his plan.
This was the digital part — deleting any trace of his fictitious singleton from the victim’s computer. The love interest formerly known as Jen drove downtown, arrived at the apartment complex where Jim had lived, and let himself in. You might be getting a bit of deja vu right now, because we’ve been here before during another break in, for very different purposes.
Twitchell hadn’t managed to get any passwords from Jim before murdering him, but somehow the bumbling butcher landed on his feet yet again; all of the accounts he needed to access were still logged in. We basically know what happened next: he posted statuses and set up automatic emails which talked about a dream vacation and leaving it all behind.
After that, he deleted Jim’s dating profile, and disposed of his printer, which would have had a map to the garage stored in its memory. While doing so, he found a copy of an insurance document with Jim’s signature. It was at that moment that Twitchell came up with his master plan to deal with the car issue: he would forge a bill of sale and say he came by it legally, by pure chance.
Me, you, and Detective Clark aren’t idiots, so we recognized how unbelievably stupid that story was right off the bat. Twitchell, on the other hand, must have had to grab some more ammonia to clean up the puddle of [drool/saliva] at his feet…
Fast forward to Monday morning. Twitchell checked his to-do list for the day: — buy toothpaste — pretend to be a film producer — oh and yes, dispose of a body. How was he going to do that? Well, first he packed up all of the pieces into body bags and put them in his car, along with the steel drum.
He drove to his parents’ house, lit a fire in the barrel, and put in the pieces bag by bag. While the torso piece burns, he talks us through an extended reflection about what it probably smells like, because Twitchell lacked a sense of smell. He also comments on how humans look like steak inside, and how he understands the cannibalistic impulse but isn’t really fussed about trying human meat. I guess that makes him a little more relatable…
He was shaken out of his macabre inner monologue by approaching sirens, and started to panic; it must have been a fire engine responding to a neighbor’s call about a fire in the backyard, he thought. He doused the flames, and just like that the sirens coincidentally stopped.
It didn’t really matter anyway, because the body wasn’t actually being incinerated. Twitchell was getting another reality check, realizing that burning a body doesn’t work like in the movies. All it had really done was melt the body bag. For now, he would just have to wrap it all up and deliver it back to the garage.
When he went home that Monday, he reports spending some time with his daughter, before heading online to talk with his mistress, Laci. I have to remind you that we’re reading the memoirs of a painfully insecure guy whose wife won’t touch him. So of course he starts this part with a description of how he’s the best Laci has ever had, and all her other boyfriends could only last a few minutes in bed…
Yes Twitchell, I’m sure your Jabba and Leia role play sessions really are something. He goes on to describe how great he was at sex with his first wife, and how he once had a partner who said “How can anyone go for three hours straight?”. Can you hear that?… It’s the sound of all our listeners’ spines simultaneously contracting.
So what was Mr Martial Arts Master — Great at Sex — Totally Not a Loser’s next move? Well, every successful TV show needs some racey sex scenes, and this is where Twitchell slips one into his memoir. That night he fed a lie to his wife, and drove off to Laci’s apartment. Cue sensual Barry White bassline.
I don’t know if I’m just jaded to all the blood and guts after doing quite a few of these episodes already, but I actually feel more uncomfortable reading this part than all of the dismemberment. Maybe it’s because it’s all relayed through Twitchell’s… unique creative voice. For example, he writes they “kissed passionately, in juicy anticipation of what was coming next.”
In case there are any aspiring writers out there, please, please never have your characters do anything “in juicy anticipation”. Likewise, never write about being “free to suck on various parts of her body.” I’m begging you.
For everyone else, I promise we’re not just lingering here uncomfortably for no reason — there are a few details to extract here beyond Twitchell’s cringey boasting. For one, he notes that Laci had a tattoo on her shoulder of a Celtic cross — one which he designed for her years ago. This sounds curiously similar to the tattoo on the mystery man who he would later claim brought the car to his garage.
And it’s unclear whether this is just part of his fantasy world or not, but he also explains how Laci once contracted a tropical virus that attacked her brain for two years, but in the end she “escaped with her health and her faculties, as well as this smoking hot new body.” Oh well as long as the brain virus made her sexier… all good then…
Now that Twitchell’s got all that out of his system, we can return to the more important parts of the story. There was still a dismembered body in the garage, and for all he knew time was running out. After all, it was hardly a clean kill — the victim had left the garage and returned twice; who knows who he had told during those interludes.
So the day after his visit to Laci’s place, he went back down to the garage to deal with the mess once and for all. He put his costume crafting skills to good use, and got into character as the Trash Man. This meant cutting up a plastic sheet into an apron, and taping heavy duty bin bags around his shoes.
After that, he opened the first of the body bags. It had been a few days since the murder, so the joints were starting to seize up from rigor mortis — what was left of them, anyway. The plan was to strip all of the pieces down, then dump the remains in the river which ran through the center of town. This meant “shaving the meat off them” one by one, sharpening his knives regularly.
The way he describes processing the head is extremely graphic, and was intended to make sure there was no way to identify it. That meant removing the teeth, and essentially deconstructing the skull, stopping only to look at the victim’s brain in fascination. That’s just my heavily watered-down version.
He then processes the torso, taking the time to muse on cannibalism once again even though he’s totally for sure not a cannibal. He writes: “Meat is meat, after all. It all tastes like beef or chicken.” It’s a wonder he even had to bring a blade at all, when he himself was soooo edgy.
The awfulness continues with quotes like:
“This experience changed my sense of place in the world forever. I felt stronger, somehow above other people. […] Things that I said to people would carry double entendres like never before. “Oh honey work was murder today.” would be more literal than Tess would ever know.”
Only Twitchell could find that cool. But I feel like he was getting a little ahead of himself, because as it stood there was a solid chance he would never go on to live the serial killer life he dreamed of. As he drove around with the freshly processed bags of human remains in this car boot, all it would have taken was one unlucky traffic stop and the whole thing was over.
He was careful, however. He stuck to the speed limits and respected every light on the way. But on the way to where? Amazingly, he decided he was a bit too tired to finish the job, so he decided to head home, leaving the body in his car boot, with plenty of time for all that nice DNA evidence to seep deeper into the lining.
Hardly a Dexter level move.
Twitchell had other matters to attend to for now though. His wife was already in bed, so he decided to hop on MSN Messenger to chat to the other lady in his life. When he talked to Laci, she was distraught. Apparently she had been reading some psychology articles, and diagnosed her ex boyfriend with sociopathy.
As Twitchell puts it, the signs are: “Chronic pathological lying, using and abusing his partner, scamming everyone around him,” and “treating other people with a total lack of respect or regard for their wellbeing.” The irony which you’re currently sensing was totally lost on our woefully deficient Dexter.
Regardless, he did act with some regard for Laci’s wellbeing that night. When she threatened suicide, he called the police and, using a fake name, directed them to her apartment. When she tells him he overreacted, he throws his toys out the pram.
The next passage is just him ranting about how her last boyfriend Evan was a total manipulative loser, and only Twitchell’s ‘step by step coaching’ could help her see so. Good thing she had you to protect her from all the manipulators and sociopaths of the world, Twitchell…
He then fantasizes about making the ex-boyfriend his next target. He had collected the guy’s personal information from Laci over the past weeks in preparation, after all, and now that he had cut his teeth as a killer, it was becoming a very real possibility…
First things first though: the human remains in his car. Our wannabe Dexter woke up in the morning to a barrage of apologies and thanks from Laci — of course — and he manages to squeeze in a little flex about saving her life.
After patting himself on the back so hard I’m amazed he didn’t dislocate his shoulder, he set off in his car, under cover of darkness. Like a deranged Goldilocks, he spent the next few hours searching for a perfect place to dump the body. The first spot — a motorway bridge — was too visible. The second — a rocky patch of riverbank — was too dangerous. But the third spot, was just right.
This was a stretch of countryside between two farming towns, which would have offered the perfect level of seclusion… Had our idiotic antihero not completely wasted all of his time [messing/dicking] around. By this point it was getting light, and the riverside roads were starting to get busy.
Faced with the prospect of yet another failure in his fledgling killing career, Twitchell desperately searched for some sort of alternative. That’s when he settled on the most awful, disrespectful method possible: he would dispose of the body in the sewers.
After describing the breakfast he stopped for along the way, he details how he travelled to the east side of the city, and found the most secluded manhole possible. Then, after heaving off the cover, he cut open the bags and dropped their contents inside.
Satisfied that he had finally completed the perfect crime after dozens of blunders and days upon days of procrastination, he drove back to the garage for the epilogue — a few last things to wrap up before moving on to episode 2.
All of the remaining evidence was thrown into the oil drum, and burned in the alleyway. Twitchell details how he let the trash burn until the oil was exhausted, dragged the can back into the garage, poured more oil on and —
[freeze and silence for a second]
No, I’m not buffering, the story actually just cuts off like that right there. For some reason, at that point, Twitchell’s sorry excuse for a novel found its way into the recycling bin, never to be completed. Why could that be?
I like to imagine that, as he smugly typed up those last few words, the murderer got a phone call from an unknown number on his cell phone. The phone vibrating on the desk gave him a shock, but not as big as the one he got when he answered:
“Hello, Mr Twitchell? This is the Edmonton Police Department. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”
We’re now back in the police station with Detective Clark. He’s just finished reading the most detailed confession ever to find its way onto his desk. Fiction and reality were clearly bleeding into each other, and he must have been sitting there wondering just how much of the text could be believed.
It was undeniable that many of the details could be verified right off the bat; there was even a bit of foreshadowing for Twitchell’s ridiculous story about the car. But altogether it raised just as many questions as it answered: who was the mystery man that got away at the beginning, for example?
If you’re yet to connect the dots yourself, I might as well mention that the second victim, Jim, was actually the real-life missing man Johnny. As Twitchell mentions in the beginning, he changed the names a little. His real-life wife Jess became Tess, while his mistress Traci became Laci. Really that little foreword should have read: “the names have been changed, but only by like one letter, because I, the author, am a moron.”
So it was safe to assume that SK Confessions was exactly what its title suggested — a true to life account. Over a hundred officers had already been mobilized to monitor Twitchell in case he tried to strike again, as he claimed he planned to do each and every Friday. They checked his social media accounts, and discovered that he kept a Facebook profile under the name Dexter Morgan, with which he role-played as the lead character from the show.
The evidence was overwhelming, but they were missing the centerpiece which makes any murder case complete: the body. The text never actually revealed exactly where to find it, and tailing Twitchell hadn’t offered up any leads. He had been well and truly spooked — fooling the police had turned out to be much harder than it looked on TV, and reality was flooding in through the punctures in his little fantasy bubble.
While the cyber team was busy cracking the laptop, they had also found a knife inside the car with some bloody staining on it. Whether or not it was real needed to be verified in the lab — nobody was game to just lick it, and see if it tasted like corn syrup. Sure enough, it was real blood. Sure enough, it was Johnny’s.
His DNA was also found in the fabric lining the car boot, and there was a post-it note inside which Twitchell had written for himself. I was a reminder to A: clean the kill room and tools, and B: have sex with Traci. Obviously he hadn’t spent quite enough time on A.
All of this, in conjunction with the computer document, were more than enough for an arrest. On the 31st of October 2008, police captured Twitchell at his parents’ house in Edmonton where he had been staying since the second interview. He was in the basement at the time, working on his Iron Man costume. Which is without a doubt the dorkiest sentence you’re ever likely to hear in a true crime web show.
The DRK JEDI probably had fantasies about blasting the police away with his energy beams and rocketing away to safety, but the time for make believe was over. The grown ups had arrived to spoil his fun. After taking him down to the station, they charged him with first-degree murder, which he continued to flat-out deny.
That would only last so long though, because a new character was about to enter the frame, who would add even more damning evidence to the pile. This was Frank: the first person lured to the kill room in the memoir. His real name was Gilles Tetreault, and he was responding to an appeal for information in the local paper.
First Attack: Victim’s Perspective
Basically, his account was exactly the same as in Twitchell’s hastily-deleted novel (minus the parts which make the killer seem like a kung-fu master). Giles was 26 at the time, working as a security guard. He chatted with 24-year-old bombshell Sheena for a few days before agreeing to meet.
When he entered the garage, he was pounced upon and beaten, caught completely unawares. As he later told the press: “That’s when I looked back to see this man hovering me with a hockey mask. At that instant I knew there was no date.”
His attacker pulled a gun on him, and he took a moment to collect himself, thinking his life was about to end any moment. With a burst of adrenaline, he grabbed the gun, realized it was plastic, and scrambled out of the garage door. Even the part about the awkward encounter with the local couple was the same.
As for what happened to Giles after his lucky escape, he just took off as far and as fast as possible, then went home to sleep off the pretty brutal beating he had just endured. As he told reporters: “I knew I needed to go to the police, but I was ashamed about what had happened to me, that I got duped by this man pretending to be a female. So I never told them, I just wanted to get home. I felt so horrible because if I went to the police earlier I could have maybe saved this guy’s life.”
I really cannot impress upon you enough the importance of reporting this kind of thing, if you’re ever unfortunate enough to have it happen to you. Seriously, it seems like every other episode the killer could’ve been easily caught if someone had just reported their damn crimes.
Still, better late than never. With Giles’ story corroborating act one of SK Confessions, the police were finally able to get a proper confession out of Twitchell. He agreed to lead them to the manhole not far from the garage where he dumped Johnny Altinger’s remains, which were recovered from the sewer.
Now they had a body to add to the detailed memoir, confession, and heaps of circumstantial evidence. That was just about everything the police needed to set the DA up for a slam dunk of a trial.
Now we roll the closing credits on the Dexter phase of this story. Up after the break is Law and Order. Nobody was expecting it to be a particularly long episode, on account of the mountains of evidence the prosecution had lined up, but it sure brought in plenty of viewers.
Under a frenzy of international attention for the Dexter Killer, the trial commenced in March 2011.
The prosecution set about detailing all the damning evidence collected by the police back in 2008.
There was the short film script, emails, and DNA evidence on all the knives and game processing blades, as well as the massive bloodstains in the garage. And of course, the coup de gras: a printout of Serial Killer Confessions: Twichell’s murder diary. His defense team argued that it was no such thing. They claimed it was a dramatized account, really entitled Stephen King Confessions, with parts of it completely invented for dramatic effect.
And so, the prosecution set about presenting as much supporting evidence as possible. For example, Twitchell really had been given a speeding ticket at the exact date and time it mentioned in the text. The traffic cop from that day was one of 46 witnesses, called to prove the document was a true-to-life account. The star of the show was Giles Tetreault. He again repeated his account of arriving at Twitchell’s garage, displaying how perfectly it matched the events in the so-called piece of fiction.
The killer’s response was that yes, he did invite the guy there and attack him, but it was just a prank bro! Apparently the whole thing had just been part of a viral marketing campaign for House of Cards. Kind of like the time Vin Diesel ran me off the motorway to drum up hype for Fast and Furious.
Even if that were the case though, how could he explain the very real dead man he had already admitted to killing? And given all the murder tools he had stockpiled, how could he even suggest it wasn’t premeditated? Sure, he had been shooting a bloody thriller movie in the garage, but the game processing kit wasn’t featured in it at all. Why did he have that, if all he planned on doing was scaring some people for movie marketing?
Twitchell’s answer was predictably moronic. He claimed that he had a “savant power” which drove his movies, so his inspiration was greater than that of your average Joe. ‘Savant’ is a major stretch given what we’ve seen of his oeuvre, but he’s not on trial for being a hack. Prosecution lawyer Avril Inglis asked him to clarify, asking: “Because of your savant inspiration for your project, you just happened to have all the tools lying around to dismember a body?”
Twitchell replied: “You can paint it as any kind of coincidence that you want.” No, that’s your job you idiot, they’re saying it wasn’t a coincidence and that you… [Sigh] There’s really no helping this guy.
That must have been what his defense lawyers were thinking. I mean, they were faced with the fact their client had basically admitted to every gruesome detail of a premeditated murder. He even blew his own chances of an insanity plea, by explaining just how he would go about it in the memoir.
The best they could do was get some parts of SK Confessions struck from the record during the proceedings. They argued that certain passages were more sensationalist than would befit a proper criminal trial, so they should be concealed from the jury.
These included a few passages we didn’t have access to either, such as how Twitchell used the skull of his victim like a ventriloquist’s dummy, and had a little laugh to himself as he did. Some other lovely tidbits we never got a chance to rip into were how Twitchell was a mega edge lord atheist, and how he planned on killing his ex-boss to “remove him from [the world’s ] glorious surface.”
Even with this watered-down-but-still-completely-awful version of the memoir, their story would still be a hard sell. They had to find a way to reconcile all the murder and dismemberment with the idea it was all supposed to be a harmless prank. Twitchell did this by throwing the blame at Altinger.
The victim’s furious family had to listen as his killer explained how Johnny had attacked him in the garage, forcing him to defend himself. When the struggle ended in his accidental death, he was forced to cut up the body and dispose of it out of fear. As for the actual mechanics of how it happened, he didn’t dispute any of it. Apparently after killing the guy by accident, he was quite capable of chopping him up and throwing him down a sewer.
Convinced? No, nobody was.
Verdict and Imprisonment
As things began wrapping up, Twitchell passed on the opportunity to address his victim’s family. Johnny Altinger’s mother then gave a victim impact statement, revealing how she still called her son’s cell phone number, just to hear him talk on the voicemail message. She told the court: “My wish is for the perpetrator of this unforgivable and horrific act to reflect on his actions and die a slow death every day of his life.”
After five hours of jury deliberations, her wish would be granted; Twitchell was found guilty on all counts, and sentenced to 25 to life behind bars. The police officers involved in the case gave a statement to the press outside, celebrating the fact they captured this hamfisted slasher before he haphazardly struck again. Bill Clark summed it up very nicely, saying : “We caught him on his first one, so he’s a very poor serial killer and thankfully he will never become a serial killer.”
Twitchell was understandably none too happy about the ruling. He went on to launch an appeal, on the grounds that the media frenzy around The Dexter Killer trial was “so extensive, so blatant and so overtly sensationalized that it is unreasonable to expect any unsequestered jury to have remained uninfluenced by it […]”
The appeal was eventually abandoned, and Twitchell resigned himself to his fate: a new life behind bars. In a statement given to the papers in 2013, he told them he had managed to secure a cable TV package for his room, and was all caught up on Dexter.
No word on whether he gave Prison Break a binge, but I would love to see him balls that one up as well.
Was TV to Blame?
There’s just one last thing to cover before we wrap up for the day: was my granny right after all, does too much telly really rot your brain? I mean, the Dexter finale got over 2.5 million viewers, so if it really has the power to create serial killers then we ought to be pretty worried.
But as you’ve probably already guessed, the vast majority of those fans managed to keep their killer impulses under wraps. That’s not to say Twitchell was the only one. A couple of super fans from Virginia lured in a victim much like Twitchell, and stored his head in their fridge; quite a few teens have also killed partners and family members after watching the show. Only Jackass and Wrestlemania had the “don’t try this at home” warning, but apparently there’s a solid case for making it a universal requirement.
However, one more thing which ties all of the Dexter-inspired killers together is this: they were severely disturbed individuals even without the influence of the show. Substance abuse and serious mental health issues pop up time and time again, which is why the vast majority of people could watch Dexter hack and slash his way through Miami without treating it like a WikiHow guide.
So no granny, it’s not that telly rots the brain — Twitchell was already rotten before the show even premiered. Jeff Lindsay, the writer of the books upon which the show is based, put it best when he said: “Reading Dexter will not make you a killer. If you are not already capable of killing another human being in a cold, cruel, deliberate way, no book ever written will make you capable of doing so. There are no magic words that will turn you into a psychopath.”
So there you have it: a modern fable warning against the dangers getting too immersed in a world of your own making. For Twitchell, murder was just part of one big vanity project. The habitual liar’s life wasn’t panning out the way he hoped it would, so he tried to write a new version of himself to regain control. Or rather, he plagiarized a new version of himself from his TV hero.
After the trial Johnny Altinger’s brother Gary spoke to the press about how he had trouble comforting his children when they got scared in the middle of the night. He said “It’s impossible to be honest with them living with the reality that monsters do live among us.”
If it’s any consolation though, a lot of the monsters are so incompetent, their life stories come off as more comedy than horror. Twitchell’s story will likely end behind bars. As unsuccessful a serial killer as a filmmaker, he’s currently locked up in Saskatchewan Federal Penitentiary, not due for release any time soon. Don’t worry about him though. I’m sure all that lightsaber training has served him very well on the inside.
1. As it turned out, someone managed to make a creative career out of this whole mess. It wasn’t Twitchell, but Tetreault — his first attempted victim. After starring in his own real-life court drama, he went on to feature in a load of documentaries about the case, and even wrote his own book about surviving the experience: The One Who Got Away: Escape from the Kill Room
2. One last piece of evidence to illustrate Twitchell’s trouble separating reality from fiction, was his laissez faire approach to on-set safety. Actor Richard Barnsley played the killer in House of Cards, and he recounted how Twitchell used the same very-real knives during the shoot. He even had to swing a real samurai sword at the actor playing the victim! Something tells me that guy went on to have a very stern conversation with his agent.
3. If you’ve been listening along and thinking Twitchell sounds like your Mr Right, then you’re in luck. Now twice-divorced, the Dexter Killer hasn’t given up on online dating just yet; in 2017, it was reported he was using a site specifically tailored to prison inmates and those who want to date them. Did I mention he’s an Edmonton City cosplay champion? Form an orderly line, ladies.