From the moment two inmates walked away from the William Head prison at low tide, to a planned violent ambush of a 60-year-old father as he came home from work and up until their ultimate arrest, James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage were joined at the hip.
That was the Crown’s closing argument as it tasked the jury presiding over the 2019 killing of Martin Payne to find Busch guilty of first-degree murder. The case’s judge has said Armitage has been dealt with in a separate way.
Regardless of who or what delivered the fatal blow to Payne, Crown lawyer Chandra Fisher said the first-degree murder threshold would’ve been met by the inmates’ planning with the intent to murder, their confinement of Payne and how they aided one another every step of the way.
“They were together from start to finish, working together when they murdered Mr. Payne,” Fisher told the courtroom on Monday.
The Crown recapped how the two men were together as they escaped, when they then encountered a woman, when a Metchosin couple refused to let them in their home, in Oak Bay where they were videoed ditching Payne’s truck and upon their boardwalk arrest.
Armitage’s fingerprints were inside several places of Payne’s home, where investigators confirmed both men left their DNA and each inmate also left prints in the victim’s truck. The men were also arrested wearing items belonging to the victim and the Helly Hansen jacket of another man – whose truck they stole and crashed – while Busch had Payne’s keys.
Busch’s DNA was on the interior of New Balance shoes and two pairs of underwear that were among the many bloody items stuffed in garbage bags in the home.
Predicting a future line of the defence, Fisher said it wouldn’t make sense for Busch’s lawyers to argue their client wasn’t actually in the home when they were side by side before and after the killing.
“These two are inseparable,” she said.
In the home
The two men entered the home shortly after Payne left for work in the morning. Witness testimony revealed they spent the morning using the computer to search for news of themselves and their escape, as Armitage called unwilling people for help or tried to find a private water taxi to the mainland.
But after finding a hideout and his banking documents, Fisher said the inmates realized they could get everything they needed from the unsuspecting Payne – money, a getaway vehicle and a witness they could silence.
“What is your PINS for cards,” Fisher said, alluding to the writing on a note that had Armitage’s fingerprints.
They had more than eight hours in the home to craft their plan, the Crown said.
Working together with murderous intent
Busch and Armitage could’ve stolen some items from the home and left before Payne returned from work – but they didn’t, Fisher said.
Instead, they two cut axe heads in separate parts of the house and armed themselves with weapons of “deadly force,” a hatchet and large bowie knife that would later be found on the home’s main bathroom counter.
That arming showed their true intent, Fisher said.
“How were they going to convince Mr. Payne once he got home to give up his PIN numbers and, of course, the obvious answer is through violence,” the Crown said, noting the cut axe handles that were prepped for beating, tape for tying him up and cable cutters that were at the ready.
Pointing to autopsy photos showing “chunks” of Payne’s skull separated by chops, with an item consistent with the hatchet, and how a large knife, consistent with the bowie, stabbed him through the neck, Fisher asked the jury if the men ever intended to let Payne live.
As he returned from work, Fisher said the men ambushed and murdered him, and any suggestion Armitage carried out the attack alone would make no sense.
She highlighted how the victim’s wounds showed he was chopped at from behind and stabbed from the front; how there were two sets of bloody footprint impressions and various pairs of bloody clothing; how at least three weapons were used and it would illogical for one attacker to leave unscathed as the larger Payne would be fighting for his life.
“You can tell that this attack was planned for two people.”
Fisher said the burden of first-degree murder can be met by killing someone while they’re unlawfully confined. Duct tape around Payne’s appendages showed an attempt to tie him up and get his PINs, the Crown argued, plus the inmates stopped him from making a break to escape the home. A large pool of blood laid by the main entrance, where Fisher argued a blood spatter analyst’s testimony proved Payne would’ve been on the ground when a heavy blow to his head occurred.
“Was the forcible confinement and murder part of the same series of events and clearly it was, and did Mr. Busch actively participate in the killing of Mr. Payne, and again, clearly he did.”
The defence is set to finish its closing arguments on Tuesday.
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