Mark Twitchell is Canadian filmmaker, more infamous than famous for his conviction as a first-degree murderer. A diehard fan of ‘Star Wars’ series and Dexter Morgan, the antihero of the Dexter book series, he developed an early interest in film and costume making. However, he was never a stable character and lied unnecessarily, later describing himself as a 'pathological liar' in a self-created document called ‘Profile of a Psychopath'. His first film, ‘Star Wars: Secrets of the Rebellion’, was never released, but earned him some local attention. Later he made another short film, titled ‘House of Cards’. Shortly, he decided to become a serial killer, luring his victims into a rented garage. While the first one was able to get away, he did kill the second. Thereafter, he not only dismembered his body, but also played for a while with his skull before dumping it into a sewer and writing his experience in another document. When he was caught, the document became a key evidence, and he was given life imprisonment.
Childhood & Early Life
Mark Andrew Twitchell was born on July 4, 1979, in Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta, Canada. Although he came from a well-adjusted family, we do not know anything about his parents or his childhood. However, it is believed that considerable part of his youth was spent in the Midwest.
On returning to Canada in the late 1990s, he undertook a course on television and radio at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), graduating from there in 1999. His contemporaries remember him as a loner. However, he maintained a core group of friends. One among them was Drew Kenworthy.
According to Kenworthy, Twitchell was a good guy, but not trustworthy. While doing joint projects, Twitchell very often failed to do his part. But instead of owning it up he would invariably make up a story or an excuse. He also lied unnecessarily.
In 1999, as ‘Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace’ was premiered in Canada, Kenworthy decided to turn the long queue into a charity fundraiser, calling it ‘standathon’. It was decided the proceeds would go to the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada. Twitchell also took part in it.
In the ‘standathon’, he auctioned some illustrations, claiming that they were original conceptual drawings made by the production crew of ‘Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace’. Later Kenworthy realized that they were forged. When confronted, Twitchell refused to acknowledge that.
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Possibly from 1999 to 2004, Mark Twitchell lived in USA, returning home in 2008 after his second marriage. On his return, he took up a string of sales jobs, first at a paper company, later selling alarms and security systems. It was during this time that he decided to make a fan film on ‘Star Wars’.
Since he lacked formal training, he brought in production crews, trying to learn on the sets. His first film, ‘Star Wars: Secrets of the Rebellion’, was largely filmed on green screen sets at his alma mater, NAIT, in the summer of 2006. For the actors he mostly used local artists.
About this period, Chris Durham, his former instructor, later said, “He transformed our news studio...There were sewing machines. There was woodworking. It was just impressive. It really was like being on a legitimate movie set.”
The production of ‘Star Wars: Secrets of the Rebellion’ garnered some online attention and earned him a place on the local news. In 2007, once it went into the postproduction phase, he started planning his next movie, ‘Day Players’, convincing investors to finance the project.
Along with making movies, Mark Twitchell also made detailed costumes of his favorite fantasy story characters. His masterpiece was ‘Bumblebee’, a character in ‘Transformers ‘, for which he won the first place in the 2007 Halloween Howler, an annual rock and costume contest held by Edmonton radio station The Bear.
In September 2008, inspired by the Dexter television series, he wrote and directed an eight-minute horror movie, ‘House of Cards’, in a rented garage. The story was about a killer who lures a philandering man off an online dating website and kills him.
Aspiring Serial Killer
Around the time Mark Twitchell was making ‘House of Cards’, he was struck with another ambition: like his favorite character Dexter Morgan, he now wanted to be a serial killer. He, therefore, opened an account with ‘Plenty of Fish’, a Canadian dating website, pretending to be a woman called “Sheena.”
He first befriended a man called Gilles Tetreault and as Sheena, convinced him to pick him up for a date on October 3, 2008, from the garage he had rented. He chose a Friday as the day of action because that was the day he was supposed to visit his counselor.
As his victim entered the garage, he attacked him with a stun baton, wearing a hockey mask. But his first attempt was a failure as Tetreault was able to escape after a terrible struggle. However, he did not report the incident to the police, giving Twitchell another chance.
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Mark Twitchell picked up thirty-eight-year-old John Brian "Johnny" Altinger from the same website as his next victim, convincing him to come to his garage on Friday, October 10, 2008. Before he came Altinger informed his friends that he was going to meet a woman he had been chatting with online.
Once Altinger entered the garage, Twitchell not only murdered him brutally, but also dismembered his body, playing with his victim’s skull, twisting the jaws, before dumping it into a north Edmonton storm sewer. Thereafter, he wrote down the gory details in a file he termed ‘My Progression as a Serial Killer/SKConfessions’.
Arrest & Trial
When Altinger did not return home, his friends became suspicious and notified the police. On October 31, 2008, Mark Twitchell was arrested from the basement of his parents’ home in Edmonton, busy making his Ironman costume. On the same day, he was charged with first-degree murder.
The key piece of evidence presented at the trial was the ‘SKConfessions’, the document in which he detailed the entire act. It was recovered from his laptop despite being deleted. .
His trial attracted wide attention, and the international press flocked to the court to document the details of the unique and strange story. Eventually on April 12, 2011, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole for twenty-five years. His family and friends sided with the prosecution.
Family & Personal Life
Mark Twitchell was married twice. His first wife was Megan Casterellla, a woman from Illinois, USA, whom he married on 4 January 2001. They divorced in 2004.
In January 2007, he married Jess Twitchell, whom he met on the dating website plentyoffish.com in 2005. They had a daughter named Chloe, born in 2008. The couple divorced sometime after his arrest in 2008.
Currently, he is serving his sentence at Saskatchewan Federal Penitentiary, a medium security facility located one kilometer west of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Twitchell’s case has inspired two non-fictions. The first is 'The Devil's Cinema: The Untold Story Behind Mark Twitchell's Kill Room', written by Steve Lillebuen and the other, 'The One Who Got Away: Escape from the Kill Room', is written by Gilles Tetreault, his intended victim, whom he failed to kill.