WARNING: this article contains graphic material
Week 2 of the Travelodge murder trial is underway, and the court heard from 3 witnesses today before breaking for lunch.
The first witness, Amanda Pfeffer, was a crime investigator at the time, and testified that she arrived at the Travelodge hotel at 800 Exeter road to help search the room.
The body of 20 year old, Orangeville local Alex Fraser was found dismembered and stuffed into duffle bags in room 326 of the Travelodge, on September 8th, 2013.
James McCullough is accused of first degree murder and committing an indignity to a human body.
On the stand, Pfeffer testified that on September 12th, 2013 she helped execute a search warrant of the McCullough residence in Orangeville. During her testimony, the court heard that she found a number of medication bottles, including a sample bottle of seroquel.
Detective Stephen Newton was the second witness to testify, and also assisted in searching the premises. He testified that in another room of the house, a number of other medication bottles were found, all prescribed to the accused, James McCullough.
Anti-anxiety medications were among the prescriptions, as well as two different antipsychotics, including risperidone. Risperidone is often used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability in people with autism. Seroquel is an antidepressant used to treat major depressive disorders.
Among the search, Newton also found 2 handwritten pages containing graphic rap style lyrics. The court saw as evidence a portion of the lyrics, which read:
“Homie thinks I’m joking but ain’t a damn thang funny
I’ll dig ur pockets, break your jaw and ram a knife through your tummy
You ain’t been thru half the sh– I been thru
I’ll go through your whole crew, a routine I’m used to
Chop ’em up, mail their parts to you
I’m so f—ing sick my favourite drink is the blood of a Jew
I’m always in the kitchen cooking but it’s never stew
Homie pass the pipe, time for the rock to brew.”
After the jury examined the pages, Justice Renee Pomerance advised jurors that they must consider the possibility that the lyrics were simply a form of artistic expression. She added, “you must not use the lyrics to consider that Mr. McCullough is a violent person and capable of killing” and only to consider his mind frame, at the time of the murder. She compared the evidence to Eric Clapton’s “I Shot the Sheriff,” explaining that Clapton did not have any intention of shooting a sheriff.
The third witness called to the stand was forensic biologist, Tricia Miller. Miller specializes in body fluid identification and DNA analysis.
Over the course of her testimony, Miller described a number of articles found in the hotel room, that had blood stains containing Alex Fraser’s DNA. A bone was also found in the room, that Miller confirmed matched Fraser’s DNA.
Today’s testimonies came after yesterday’s grizzly description of Fraser’s wounds.
Veteran pathologist Michael Shkrum, testified yesterday that Fraser died of multiple stab wounds to the neck and torso.
He told the court that he counted a total of 29 wounds, including a cluster of chest wounds that ran together, making them hard to count.
Shkrum noted pinpoint hemorrhages on the eyelids and under the lips, that could have been a result of a heavy compression to the chest.
He added that small cuts to three fingers of Fraser’s right hand were a signs “raising the possibility that these were defensive-type wounds.”
According to his testimony, the dismemberment happened after death.
Forensic toxicologist Karen Woodall also testified yesterday, that marks on the bones found in the room, were consistent with use of a straight-edge knife. She added that the knife previously found in one hockey bag, couldn’t be ruled out as the weapon.
The trial continues Wednesday at 11 a.m.
A timeline of the night in question:
– on the night of September 7th, 2013, James McCullough and Alex Fraser took a cab from Orangeville to London
– during the $320 cab ride, Fraser was talkative and “obviously inebriated,” as per the cab driver’s testimony
– at one point, they back tracked, and McCullough retrieved 2 duffle bags and put them in the trunk
– during the ride McCullough continuously referred to himself as “Josh”
– they arrived in London and checked into the Travelodge hotel – paid cash, and used the name Josh Childess
– the death of Alex Fraser occurred at some point within the next 24 hours.
– during that time, Fraser was not seen again, but McCullough was, when he advised the front desk that he did not need housekeeping, and requested the room for a second night.
– during that time 2 men came to visit McCullough at the hotel, they were later identified as old friends of the accused
– they refused to drive McCullough to North Bay, as per his request
– one man testified that the night was “bizarre” and McCullough first claimed to have stolen government property in the duffle bags. He then changed his story, saying he had the body of a Toronto gang member in the duffle bags.
– both men left the hotel
– McCullough called his uncle, his parents and his lawyer
– he then dialed 911
– by the time police arrived on scene, McCullough had been at the Travelodge for 20 hours