Mark Twitchell Case: Inside the Mind of “The Dexter Killer”

When investigative journalist and MacEwan University professor Steve Lillebuen sat down to write a book about the Dexter-obsessed killer Mark Twitchell in late 2010, the last thing he expected was to get an arrest warrant from the killer himself.

“He just said straight out, ‘If you’re going to write a book about me, you might as well go straight to the source,’ ‘a stunned Little Archer tells 48 Hours. That call sparked a correspondence with the upcoming serial killer that lasted nearly three years. Now “48 Hours” contributor Troy Roberts is reporting on these letters and getting a revealing look at what a retired FBI criminal profile thinks motivated Mark Twitchell in “The Dexter Killer.”

Mark Twitchell
Mark Twitchell was a filmmaker from Canada who dreamed of making it big in the movies. Investigators say Twitchell was possessed by the fictional serial killer at the center of the TV series “Dexter,” which airs on Showtime, a division of Paramount Global that owns CBS.

Edmonton Journal


“He probably wrote 30 or 35 different letters to me – up to about 350 pages … worth a whole book,” Lillebuen, the author of “The Devil’s Cinema: The Untold Story Behind Mark Twitchell’s Kill Room” tells 48 Hours . “” He is very self-conscious and he has such a compulsive nature that he would write everything down … I would ask him a question … and I would get 10 pages left as an answer. ”

In 2008, Twitchell was a 29-year-old aspiring filmmaker living in Edmonton, Canada, with his wife and little daughter. Though outwardly he was unimpressive, his writings were dark. They revealed his fascination with the fictional character Dexter Morgan – an obsession that Lillebeun and police say Twitchell has transferred to his real crimes.

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

Following his arrest on Halloween Day in 2008, police recovered a deleted file on Twitchell’s computer called “SK Confessions”. While the filmmaker claimed that this document was a script, prosecutors successfully claimed that “SK” stood for “Serial Killer” and that the document was in fact Twitchell describing his crimes. In it he writes: “I diligently decorated my killing room,” and explains how it contained “several rolls of plastic paint” and “a forty-five gallon steel drum … for the body parts” as well as a “game treatment set … which contained a butcher knife .. a fillet knife … and a serrated saw for the bones. ”

All of these are objects that the police would later discover at the crime scene. And while Twitchell in this document claims that he does not “copy-cat style from Dexter Morgan,” he adds “I still want to pay tribute to the character.”

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

Mark Twitchell letter
Despite comparisons to the fictional TV character Dexter Morgan, Twitchell writes in a letter to Steve Lillebuen: “As you know, Dexter has ‘almost nothing’ to do with my case. It has no bearing whatsoever on what is actually happened. ”

Mark Twitchell letter


And yet, in a letter to Lillebuen, Twitchell writes: “As you know, Dexter has ‘almost nothing’ to do with my case. It has no bearing whatsoever on what actually happened.”

Lillibuen tells Roberts: “No one says the people who created Dexter are to blame for a death in real life. It’s ridiculous.” But Lillibuen says Twitchell “completely denies there is any connection at all,” adding, “there is a logical interruption there.”

In his letters, the convicted killer also claims that he killed Johnny Altinger not in a cold-blooded murder, but in self-defense. At the time of his arrest, Twitchell had been working on a movie called “House of Cards,” in which an unsuspecting man is lured to a garage and killed. The plan, Twitchell argued in court, was to lure men who thought they were dating a woman and then attack them, then let them escape – so when his film came out, those men would stand up and say this had actually happened to them, thereby creating a buzz. During his trial, Twitchell claimed that Altinger was furious at being tricked and attacked him. It was a premise as fictional as Johnny Alterting’s murder was genuine, and one the jury did not buy.

Three months after his 2011 conviction for first-degree murder, Twitchell made the same argument to Lillebuen, writing “I killed Johnny Altinger in a horrific self-defense accident. … Why should he react? Why could he not just storm off as he should? ” According to Lillebuen, “he’s still pushing that story … He’s still blaming Johnny for what happened.” Lillebuen tells “48 Hours” that Twitchell is still “trying to argue … that he’s innocent. And to be honest, he is – he’s wrong.”

“What I find interesting about Mark Twitchell is that he might know it that he did not fool people in that he killed Johnny, “says retired FBI criminal profiler Julia Cowley.” What he thinks he has fooled everyone is the reason, the true reasons why he… killed Johnny. “Cowley believes these reasons lie in Twitchell’s own writings, especially in” 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 tells 48 Hours. “If we … look at the case as a whole, what does he do then? He goes into online dating sites. He entices men who think they’re going on a date. … It’s almost as if Mark Twitchell is also preparing a date. He talks a lot… about preparing the room, what he should wear, the weapon he chooses. He describes it in seductive language. “To make her point, Cowley read from Twitchell’s” SK Confessions “:” I wanted the weapon used for the act itself to be simple, elegant, and beautiful. ”

Cowley says, “So for him, this is a date. It’s something he’s been fantasizing about.” She claims that for Twitchell, this is also a “thriller.” She adds: “I do not think he thinks there is anything wrong with him … I think he is self-aware and understands ‘I do not have empathy or sympathy like … other people’.”

In a letter from July 2011, Twitchell writes to Lillibuen, who tries to explain himself: “There is no … fundamental cause … no school bully or impressively bloody movies or video game violence or … Showtime TV series to point the finger at “That’s what it is and I’m what I am.”

In another exchange, Twitchell expressed dismay at the outrage his case caused. He complains: “I find it all very hypocritical … There is something blunt that someone is overjoyed to see psychotics brutally murder dozens of people on TV and then suddenly play as if they thought their stomachs turned upside down when this happens in completely unique circumstances in a truly, isolated incident. ”

In another letter to Lillebuen, in which he elaborates on Dexter’s character and mass appeal, Twitchell writes: “Dexter, do not forget, is a monster. A self-conscious one no less.”

Some would argue that the same could be said of Twitchell himself.

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