A man who escaped a minimum security prison and brutally murdered Metchosin’s Martin Payne has been sentenced to life behind bars with no chance of parole for 25 years.
A day after he was found guilty of first-degree murder for Payne’s death in July 2019, James Lee Busch was back in court Thursday to formally be sentenced and also heard heartbreaking impact statements from Payne’s loved ones.
Payne’s sister, daughters and mother of his children spoke at the hearing, delivering emotional statements on how Busch tore their lives apart when he repeatedly stabbed Payne in his Metchosin home, along with another escaped prisoner alleged to have taken part in what the judge called a “cold-blooded killing.”
“I believe we have in this country and in this province, the best criminal justice system in the world, but I deeply regret it cannot provide the family of Payne what they need now. It cannot bring back your father, partner, friend. It cannot take away your sense of loss. It cannot take away your pain and it cannot make you whole. That is its shortcoming. But this is what it can do,” said Justice David Crossin, as he delivered the sentence.
He then addressed Busch directly, telling him: “You extinguished the life of a man simply returning from work on a Monday afternoon. It was a cold-blooded killing for reasons that escape me. You didn’t just kill him, you butchered him…leaving him lying in his own blood.”
James Lee Busch was found guilty of first-degree murder in Martin Payne’s death.
Payne’s family was in attendance every day of the trial, hearing each difficult and gruesome detail about how their father was killed.
Finally getting their chance to speak, Payne’s daughters talked about the unwavering love and support their father showed them and how his vicious murder will traumatize them for the rest of their lives.
“My trauma will change on an hourly, daily, yearly basis for the rest of my life,” said Calla Payne. “Ask me in a few years, when I have to walk myself down the aisle. Ask me in a few years when I have to explain to [my kids] why they don’t have a grandfather…My father could have been anyone.”
Payne’s other daughter, Jessica, said he was a thoughtful, compassionate, gentle-hearted man who made her feel important. Now, all she can think about is the “cold, calculated cruelty” he was met with in his last moments.
“They had one day out of prison,” she said outside of court following the hearing. “And they killed our father to have that one day. It’s extremely senseless.”
Payne’s sister recalled the unimaginable shock of arriving at his home and being met by RCMP who told her the man she still called her “baby brother” was dead.
“I will never forget the look on his face. He put his hands on my shoulders and said Marty was unresponsive. I collapsed on the shoulder and sobbed,” she said. “I was shocked. Overcome with grief.”
She, like Payne’s daughters, said she can’t stop thinking about Payne’s last moments and has become dissociated, depressed and withdrawn.
Catherine, the mother of Payne’s children, called him “the backbone” of the family and said she no longer feels safe after his murder.
“I feel terrible. I wasn’t there to help him. I live with guilt for not doing anything to keep him alive,” she said.
Civil suit still to come
During the trial, Crown posited the theory that Busch and co-accused Zachary Armitage broke out of William Head Penitentiary and killed Payne to further their escape.
However, mid-way through the hearing Armitage disappeared, leaving Busch as the lone suspect to participate in the trial.
Due to a publication ban, CHEK News and all other media were prevented from reporting that Armitage had actually changed his plea from not guilty to guilty in Payne’s murder.
Prior to their recent convictions, both Busch and Armitage had already escaped from separate prisons. Now CHEK News can also report that while at William Head, both were classified as violent offenders.
At the time, Busch was serving a sentence for second-degree murder and assault, and was also serving time for aggravated sexual assault.
The circumstances surrounding their escape from the facility will be revisited in a civil lawsuit filed by Payne’s family alleging the institution was “reckless” in responding to the incident.
It also says Payne’s death was a “direct and foreseeable” result due to the prison’s alleged negligence.
For now, they say they’re focused on reconnecting and healing as they try to put one step of the horrific ordeal behind them, but will continue to honour their father’s memory.
With files from CHEK’s Kori Sidaway