Charges laid following eleven month murder investigation in Metchosin
VICTORIA -- Two men who escaped from William Head Institution in July of last year have been charged with the murder of Martin Payne, eleven months following his death.
West Shore RCMP say that James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage face charges of first degree murder in connection to the death of the 60-year-old Metchosin resident, who was found deceased in his home in July 2019.
Busch and Armitage escaped from the William Head federal institution in the early morning hours of July 8, 2019, and Payne's body was discovered when police were sent to check on his well-being four days later after he failed to show up for work. When officers arrived, they found him deceased, and suspected criminality in his death.
The two were finally charged on Saturday, following a more than eleven month investigation which involved over one hundred officers across the West Shore RCMP, BC RCMP Major Crimes Unit, Victoria Police, Saanich Police, and the Oak Bay Police.
Corporal Chris Manseau of the BC RCMP says that the complexity of the case led to the investigation taking longer than normal.
"Investigations like this are very complex, and officers have to ensure that the evidence collected and put forward to the BC Prosecution Service is sufficient to consider charges." said Manseau to CFAX 1070. "We wanted to make sure it was a thorough investigation."
42-year-old James Lee Busch was serving an indeterminate sentence for second-degree murder and assault, and had previously served time for aggravated sexual assault and escaping custody. Meanwhile 30-year-old Zachary Armitage was serving a nearly 14-year sentence for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences.
Payne's family -- who has waited a long eleven months for justice -- put out a statement on Saturday regarding the charges:
"Marty was deeply loved by his tight circle of friends and family and we have continued to mourn his senseless loss every day for the past 11 months. The man who was taken from us was an exceptionally gentle and caring human being whose love, support, and encouragement were unfailing."
Anne Kelly, Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada also released a statement regarding the crimes:
"First and foremost, I extend my deepest sympathies to Mr. Payne's family and friends as we learn of the new developments surrounding this case. I also want to recognize the impact this has had on the community and to let you know that we take this situation very seriously, including the fact that the inmates charged had escaped from our custody prior to this tragic crime."
Many residents in the community of Metchosin -- including it's mayor John Ranns -- say that for years the William Head institution has accepted violent/inappropriate offenders, despite being classified as a minimum-security institution. However, Kelly says that escapes from federal correctional institutions are not common, and have been decreasing in recent years.
There have been a total of three prison breaks at the William Head Institution in the last twenty years -- with the other two taking place in 2004 and 2014.