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In the Mind of Mark Twitchell, “Dexter’s Killer”

When Steve Lillebuen, an investigative journalist and professor at MacEwan University, set out to write a book about Dexter-obsessed murderer Mark Twitchell in late 2010, the last thing he expected was to receive a jail call from the killer himself.

“He just said right away: ‘If you’re going to write a book about me, you might as well go straight to the source'”, tells a stunned Lillebuen to “48 Hours”. This call sparked a correspondence with the future serial killer that lasted nearly three years. Now “48 Hours” contributor Troy Roberts is reporting on those letters and getting a revealing look at what a retired FBI criminal profiler thinks motivated Mark Twitchell “The Dexter Killer” airs Saturday, April 23 at 10 a.m. /9c on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

“He wrote me probably 30 or 35 different letters – up to about 350 pages…like a whole book worth,” says Lillebuen, author of “The Devil’s Cinema: The Untold Story Behind Mark Twitchell’s Kill Room. “”48 Hours”. “He’s very self-aware, and he’s got this kind of obsessive-compulsive nature of wanting to write everything down…I’d ask him a question…and get 10 pages back as an answer.”

In 2008, Twitchell was a 29-year-old aspiring filmmaker living in Edmonton, Canada with his wife and young daughter. Although seemingly unimposing, his writings were dark. They revealed his fascination with fictional character Dexter Morgan – an obsession that Lillebeun and police say Twitchell carried over into his real-life crimes.

“If you look at the evidence,” Lillebuen tells Roberts, “there are significant connections to Dexter… He had a killing room set up with plastic sheeting. He had a table set for his victims. kind of treatment kit that was very similar to what Dexter uses.”

After his arrest on Halloween Day in 2008, police recovered a deleted file from Twitchell’s computer called “SK Confessions”. While the filmmaker claimed this document was a script, prosecutors successfully argued that “SK” stood for “Serial Killer” and the document was actually Twitchell detailing his crimes. In it he wrote: “I diligently set up my killing room”, explaining how it included “several rolls of plastic sheets for painters” and “a forty-five gallon steel drum…for body parts as well as a “game processing kit…which contained a butcher knife…a fillet knife…and a serrated bone saw.” All of these are items that the police will later discover at the crime scene. And although Twitchell claims in this document that he did not “copy the style of Dexter Morgan”, he adds “I would always like to pay homage to the character.”

In October 2008, Twitchell posed as a woman on an online dating site and lured an unsuspecting 38-year-old man named Johnny Altinger into a garage. Twitchell spent time turning the garage into a “killing room” before brutally beating and stabbing Altinger to death, after which he placed his body on a table and methodically dismembered it – all actions reminiscent strangely the fictional character of Dexter himself.

And yet, in a letter to Lillebuen, Twitchell writes: “As you know, Dexter had ‘almost nothing’ to do with my case. It has no bearing on what actually happened.” Lilbuen tells Roberts, “No one is saying the people who created Dexter are to blame for an actual death. That’s ridiculous.” But Lillibuen says Twitchell “completely denies there is any connection”, adding that “there is a logical disconnect there”.

In his letters, the convicted killer also claims that he killed Johnny Altinger not in an act of cold-blooded murder, but in self-defense. At the time of his arrest, Twitchell was working on a movie called “House of Cards,” in which an unsuspecting man is lured into a garage and killed. The plan, Twitchell argued in court, was to lure men who thought they were showing up on a date with a woman, then attack them, only to then let them escape — so that when his film would come out, these men would come forward and say this had indeed happened to them, creating a buzz. During his trial, Twitchell claimed that Altinger became enraged at being cheated and attacked him. It was such a fictitious premise that Johnny Altinger’s murder was real, and the jury didn’t believe it.

Three months after his 2011 first-degree murder conviction, Twitchell made the same point to Lillebuen, writing, “I killed Johnny Altinger in a horrific accident in self-defense…Why did he have to react? like he was supposed to?” According to Lillebuen, “he’s always…pushing this narrative…He’s still blaming Johnny for what happened.” Lillebuen tells “48 Hours” that Twitchell “always tries to argue… that he’s innocent. And to be honest, he’s–he’s wrong.”

“What I find interesting about Mark Twitchell is that he may know that he didn’t fool people that he killed Johnny,” says Julia Cowley, a retired FBI criminal profiler. “What he thinks he fooled everyone is the reason, the real reasons why he really killed Johnny.” Cowley believes those reasons lie in Twitchell’s own writings, including “SK Confessions” and the letters the killer sent to Steve Lillebuen, which she analyzed for “48 hours “.

“I think his primary motive was sexual,” Cowley told 48 Hours. “If we… look at the whole thing, what does he do?” He goes to online dating sites. He attracts men who think they’re coming in for a date… It’s almost like Mark Twitchell is also prepare for an appointment. He talks at length… about setting up the room, what he’s going to wear, what weapon he chooses. He…describes it in seductive language.” To make his point, Cowley read Twitchell’s “SK Confessions,” “I wanted the weapon used for the act itself to be simple, elegant, and beautiful. .”

Cowley says, “So for him, it’s a date. It’s something he fantasizes about.” She argues that for Twitchell, it’s also a “thrill killing”. She adds: “I don’t think he thinks there’s anything wrong with him…I think he’s self-aware and understands that I don’t have empathy or sympathy like…the others .”

In a July 2011 letter, Twitchell wrote to Lilbuen trying to explain, “There is no…root cause…no bullying at school or gory movies or violence in video games or … of Showtime TV series to point the finger at. It is what it is and I am what I am.”

In another exchange, Twitchell expressed dismay at the outrage caused by her case. He complains: “I find it all very hypocritical…There is something obtuse about someone who takes wild joy in watching psychotics brutally murder dozens of people on TV and then playing suddenly thinking his stomach is turning when it happens under totally unique circumstances in an isolated real-life incident.”

In another letter to Lillebuen in which he explains Dexter’s character and mass appeal, Twitchell writes, “Dexter, don’t forget, is a freak. A self-aware one no less.” Some would say the same could be said of Twitchell itself.

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