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Defence lawyers critical of items examined at Metchosin homicide scene

James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are charged with the first-degree murder of Martin Payne
James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are charged with killing Martin Payne after the inmates escaped William Head institution on July 7, 2019. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

For the second day in a row, lawyers representing the inmates accused of killing a Metchosin man speculated on what an RCMP forensic investigator thought as she examined the crime scene.

James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are charged with the first-degree murder of Martin Payne after they escaped the William Head prison in 2019.

Payne’s body was found with duct tape around his right thigh and forearm, but the court on Wednesday (Nov. 23) heard there was no evidence that duct tape was found on other parts of the 60-year-old’s body or on a chair in his master bedroom. That chair was positioned in front of a desk with a note – which an investigator said did not match Payne’s writing – that had “what is your PIN for cards” written on it.

Busch’s lawyer Ryan Drury on Wednesday repeatedly suggested Kimberley Sarson, an RCMP forensics identification specialist, thought to herself that the duct tape was used not to restrict Payne, but to move him.

“I did not know why tape was wrapped around his leg or his arm,” Sarson, a lead forensic photographer and examiner in the case, responded.

The defence also claimed Sarson would’ve thought the incident to be a robbery, but she said “I can’t say I would’ve thought that,” and noted it was a homicide scene and said she examined the scene like she would any other.

Drury pondered why Sarson didn’t physically examine a footprint left in dust and dirt on an ATV’s seat in the detached garage, but Sarson photographed it and said she could tell by looking at it that it didn’t match any of the shoes found inside the home.

READ: Defence lawyer questions evidence examination during trial for escaped Metchosin inmates

A garage shelf held what Drury said appeared to be several duct tape rolls and handles that could belong to a hammer or hatchet. He was critical Sarson and other investigators didn’t examine those items for fingerprints or swab them.

“I’ve got a hatchet, I’ve got a knife, I’ve got duct tape in the house and these similar items exist in the shelves of this garage …you’re not connecting the dots are you, corporal,” Drury said.

Regarding the tape and tools, Sarson said “it was more important that they were in the house.” No prints were on a hatchet and bowie knife found in the home.

She explained the other tools Drury asked about weren’t found in the house – where she said the homicide took place – and nothing seemed out of place in the tidy garage when officers looked through it. Several times in her testimony, she said other tools being found in the garage wouldn’t be considered unusual given it was a workshop area.

While three fingerprints of Armitage were found at the home, including on the note, no prints belonging to Busch could be identified at the rural property.

A pair of the Asics shoes found in garbage bags at the home left a bloody impression on the rim of a toilet seat in the ensuite bathroom where Payne was found. Drury suggested that a pair of Asics shoes had a substantial amount of blood on them compared to a pair of New Balance shoes found in the bags. A pair of New Balance shoes was also found in Busch’s cell.

The trial continues in Vancouver on Thursday.

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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