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Wife of man accused of 'movie murder' thought he was with psychiatrist

Filmmaker Mark Twitchell, centre, is shown in courtroom sketch with his defence lawyer Charles Davison on Wednesday March 16, 2011.

Amanda McRoberts/The Canadian Press/Amanda McRoberts/The Canadian Press

Court heard Monday that suburban dad Mark Twitchell lied to his wife about his job, his therapy and, according to the Crown, his desire to become a serial killer by murdering total strangers.

Mr. Twitchell's former wife Jess told jurors at his first-degree murder trial that on the days he was allegedly carrying out his crimes, the note on the family kitchen calendar said he was at sessions with his psychiatrist.

Her world came crashing in, she testified, when she answered the door on Oct. 20, 2008, her nine-month-old baby with her.

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"Police came to our house and said they thought Mark had killed someone," she testified.

They said they were coming back with a search warrant. She recalled she began to cry. "I took the baby and a couple hour's worth of things and I went to my mother's. That's the last day I saw Mark."

That was, until Monday, when she took the stand at his trial.

Mr. Twitchell, 32, is charged with killing Johnny Altinger, 38, on Oct. 10, 2008, dismembering the body and dumping it in a sewer.

The prosecution has said it will submit Mr. Twitchell's diary as evidence because it relates the entire crime starting with the lead paragraph: "This is a story of my progression into becoming a serial killer."

The Crown has also told jurors that it will show that Mr. Altinger was lured to a garage on Edmonton's south side thinking he was meeting a woman for a date. Instead, Mr. Twitchell ambushed and knifed him to death.

Prosecutors also say they'll prove that a week earlier Mr. Twitchell tried the same thing on another man, but that man fought back and got away, although he didn't go to police.

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Jess Twitchell, who has since divorced the accused, said they met on an Internet dating service and were married less than 10 months before his arrest.

It was a troubled marriage, she said.

When she was three month's pregnant, before their wedding day, he confessed an old flame was getting divorced and he was thinking about going back to her.

She once caught him on a dating website. He said he was doing research for a story. He later had an actor buddy pose as the story editor to fool her, she said.

She also said he was trying to make a go of it as a fringe filmmaker, but wasn't making any money. He had run through a string of sales jobs but couldn't seem to make them stick. His last job was over in the spring, but he didn't tell her and by the fall she thought he was still employed.

By October, 2008, he was sleeping in the basement of their home in St. Albert, a bedroom community north of Edmonton. They were leading separate lives. There were psychiatric appointments and marriage counselling.

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The Crown has said it will prove that starting around August, 2008, Mr. Twitchell decided to become a serial killer. Jurors have already seen that he read novels and burned DVDs about Dexter, a popular fictional character who works for Miami police by day as a forensic analyst and kills strangers by night in the name of societal justice.

The prosecution has produced receipts to show that around that time Mr. Twitchell had begun to buy knives, cleavers, saws, duct tape, handcuffs and a steel drum they say was used to burn Mr. Altinger's remains.

Prosecutors allege that a week before the crimes he did a practice run by filming a short movie in the garage with a few buddies about a man lured to a remote location, kidnapped, tortured for his Internet pass codes and then killed.

Friday, Oct. 3, was the attack on the man who got away. A week later, Mr. Altinger was killed.

Jess Twitchell said she doesn't remember anything different in her husband's behaviour on either of those days. "He was easygoing, kind of relaxed."

The day after the alleged murder, Mr. Twitchell spent the day with his wife, she said. They went out for dinner and then to a comedy club. The rest of the weekend they celebrated Thanksgiving - first at his parents' place, then at hers.

It was emotional testimony. She cried briefly when looking at photos of their old home and when discussing their daughter.

Mark Twitchell's demeanour also changed with the testimony. He is being allowed to sit at the defence table instead of the prisoner's dock. During the first three days of the trial, he kept his head down and scribbled notes.

But his pen was down as his former wife testified. He looked at her the whole time, rocking slightly in his chair or leaning forward with his chin on his fists.

She avoided his gaze except once when there was a pause in the proceedings. She glanced over and they locked eyes. Hers flashed and for a split second she shook her head.

The testimony resumed.

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