Two men who escaped from a prison in Metchosin last July have been charged with first-degree murder.
James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage have both been charged with one count of first-degree murder, in the death of Martin Payne, 60, according to a BC RCMP media release issued on Saturday morning.
“Our condolences go out to Martin Payne’s family and friends,” Inspector Todd Preston, of the West Shore RCMP, said in the media release. “We know that this has been a very difficult time for the community and citizens of the West Shore and in particular, Metchosin. We want to thank the citizens for their patience in the investigative process”
Busch and Armitage escaped from William Head Institution, a federal facility in Metchosin on July 7, 2019, at approximately 6:45 in the evening. Staff at the facility realized the two were missing at 11 p.m. when the pair failed to check-in. They were located and arrested by police a day later when the two happened to comment on an off-duty officer’s dog.
However, on July 12, West Shore RCMP performed a wellness check on 60-year-old Martin Payne, who lived in the 1000-block of Brookview Drive in Metchosin and had failed to show up for work, according to the media release.
When officers entered the home, they discovered Payne dead, and “given the circumstances” at the scene, the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit was brought in to investigate as criminality was suspected.
Following an 11 month investigation, Busch and Armitage have now been charged with murder in relation to Payne’s death.
Before the announcement of the charges on Saturday, the RCMP never officially confirmed the link between the two escapees and Payne’s death.
The official charge of the two suspects brings some relief for Payne’s neighbours, who have been waiting for 11 months to have this crime solved.
“When I heard [the charge] this morning, I was elated because it’s been a long time for that family. He was such a nice guy,” said neighbour Cheryl Hanna. “I just know its been really hard, it’s been hard for the whole neighbourhood waiting.”
Although Hanna was worried and saddened by the murder of her neighbour, she says most of the neighbourhood believed it was Busch and Armitage, simply because the timing was too coincidental.
“At first it kind of frightened us at this house. Most of us really felt it was those two guys, and we knew they were caught in prison, and I don’t expect to see it again,” said Hanna, saying she still felt like Metchosin was a safe place to call home.
Meanwhile, Payne’s family is still mourning his death.
“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,” Payne’s family said in a statement.
There are still many questions that remain, such as why two violent offenders were even sent minimum-security prison, and why wasn’t the community notified earlier.
RCMP have said public alerts for information were issued and law agencies were notified, but staff at the prison noticed the men were missing at 11 p.m. Sunday night, and the public wasn’t notified until Monday, and one man is now dead.
CHEK News has reached out to BC RCMP for comment on this matter and is awaiting a response. This story will be updated when more information becomes available.