The epilogue of the most significant Canadian crime story in years begins Monday in Montreal with the trial of Luka Rocco Magnotta, accused of slaying and dismembering a Chinese student.
The case made international headlines after the murder and lewd acts involving the victim’s corpse were filmed by the killer and posted online.
Monday marks the start of a preliminary hearing, in which a judge decides whether there is enough evidence to prosecute.
Magnotta faces first degree murder and other charges, including committing indignities to a body and harassing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Police say the occasional porn actor and escort used an ice pick to stab his 33-year-old victim Lin Jun in late May before carving up his body, sexually abusing the corpse, filming the act and posting the video online.
Days after the killing, Montreal police discovered the victim’s torso in a suitcase by the trash outside an apartment along a busy highway.
His severed hands and feet were sent through the mail to federal political parties in Ottawa and to two schools in Vancouver. The head was found in a Montreal park months later.
Arrested on June 4, 2012 in Germany and extradited after fleeing Canada, Magnotta has pleaded not guilty.
His lawyers said they would ask the judge to bar the public from his preliminary hearing, which is expected to last at least 10 days. It is rare for a preliminary hearing to be held behind closed doors.
If convicted, Magnotta faces life imprisonment.
His lawyers may argue against jailing him, claiming he has a history of mental illness. But legal experts suggested it would be a long shot.
Police said he was known to change his appearance by dying his hair or wearing wigs, and even disguising himself as a woman.
Psychiatrists have judged him from afar to be likely a psychopath, yet mentally fit to stand trial.
Born Eric Clinton Newman, he changed his name to Magnotta in 2006, after years of swapping aliases such as Vladimir Romanov, or Angel.
The media, however, crowned him “Canadian Psycho” because of the soundtrack from the movie “American Psycho” playing in the background as he allegedly butchered his victim.
For years Magnotta built a profile through blogs, escort adverts in which he searched online for sex partners and posted photographs showing himself as a trim, pouty-lipped model whose travels included Paris and other cities.
The one-time supporter of white supremacists posted a video online of two kittens being suffocated in a plastic bag.
At the same time, profiles he reputedly posted on online dating websites conveyed an altogether different persona — on one site he listed beach volleyball as a hobby and said he was looking for a long-term relationship.
Pierre Bonhomme, a Canadian filmmaker who recalled a meeting with Magnotta in Toronto in 2007 or 2008, told the Ottawa Citizen it was a “creepy” experience that he quickly decided to escape from.
“I left within about five minutes. It was a really uncomfortable, awkward situation. He was in the shady, druggy, gay-sex prostitution world. He was on a lot of the gay hookup sites,” Bonhomme said.
“He was a hustler,” Bonhomme said. “He was definitely not a gay village kind of guy. He was more of a suburban guy on the Internet, scamming married guys, that kind of thing.”
In his writings, Magnotta described being beaten and sexually abused while growing up in a Toronto suburb, as well as being a heavy drinker, drug-addicted and manic depressive.
He also claimed membership in the Church of Scientology and that he supported white supremacists.
In 2005 he was convicted for defrauding several retailers and with stealing $16,900 from a woman in Toronto, culminating in a suspended sentence and probation.
Magnotta’s family still lives in the Toronto area but claimed to have lost contact with him some time ago.
A former lover, transsexual prostitute Nina Arsenault, claimed to have met Magnotta a decade ago at a club in Toronto where he worked as a male stripper.
Arsenault told local media that he was a “manipulative pathological liar, one f(expletive)-up kid.”
“He would joke about killing animals. He would joke about killing people,” she told CityTV. “He hated his dad. He hated his family and said they didn’t understand him and he had to get away,” Arsenault said.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]