Convicted of 1st-degree murder, Orangeville man a ‘predator’

April 28, 2016   ·   0 Comments

After a three-week trial, a jury in London, Ont., deliberated just three hours Monday before finding an Orangeville man guilty of first-degree murder in the 2013 death and dismemberment of a younger man he knew from high school.

On Tuesday, Superior Court Justice Renee Pomerance gave James McCullough, 23, the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years, and added four years, to be served concurrently, for offering indignity to the body of his victim, 20-year-old Alex Fraser.

Among those present in the courtroom when the jury returned were the victim’s  parents, Scott and Jackie Fraser, whose only child died on Sept. 8, 2013, after his killer took him in a taxicab to London from Orangeville and checked into a Travelodge.

Four members of the accused’s family – his parents and brother from Orangeville, and an aunt from Singapore, were in the courtroom to hear the verdicts. Defence lawyer Lynda Lamb, of Orangeville, made no comments to reporters after the verdicts were announced.

The trial was described in the London Free Press as “one of the most perverse and horrifying murder cases tried in London in recent memory. Fraser was stabbed 29 times and his body cut into pieces before it was packed up in two hockey duffel bags found in the hotel room.”

The jury heard that the victim had been driven, while extremely intoxicated, to London in a taxi and that Mr. McCullough had paid the driver in cash and used an assumed name when registering at the hotel.

Perhaps signalling their ease in reaching a verdict, the jurors did not accept an offer from the trial judge Monday afternoon to go home and return Tuesday morning for the final half-hour of her charge.

In closing arguments, Ms. Lamb called for a manslaughter conviction, arguing that her client had no plan to kill that night but had only gone to London to do a home invasion, party and shop, and had “freaked out” when the other man made sexual advances and tried to grab his genitals. “This is not a case of premeditated murder.”

However, the jury appeared to accept the submissions of the prosecutor, assistant Crown attorney Meredith Gardiner, and  evidence pointing to the accused’s  fantasy to kill, cut up and possibly eat a person. She pointed to sadistic “death rap” lyrics about murder, maiming and cannibalism, and a  conversation he had with a psychiatric nurse a year before the murder in which he talked about “slaying” someone and eating the person’s flesh.

The Crown lawyer said Mr. Fraser was a “perfect victim” because the killer had known him since high school and would know he’d pass out quickly after drinking to excess. She recalled evidence in the trial when, on the bizarre $320 cab ride, the victim had no idea where he was going and kept asking where they were.

The jury also heard that the accused had brought with him the bags used for the body parts, a knife and a knife sharpener. Challenging his claim that as a drug dealer he carried the knife all the time for protection as a drug dealer, the prosecutor suggested he had grabbed it from the family kitchen intending to use it in the stabbing.

The trial was told that after the murder the hotel room was meticulously cleaned and the accused asked an old Fanshawe College acquaintance to drive him and the body parts out of town.

When he couldn’t get the ride out of town, he called his parents, his lawyer and finally 911, saying there was someone who was “full-on dead” in his hotel room.

Although the defendant testified in his own defence, the Crown said his lies to police, including a claim that Mr. Fraser was the aggressor, were only sorry attempts to cover up his crime. “James McCullough was a calculated predator. … He committed these offences for no other reason than he wanted to,” Ms. Gardiner told the jury.

At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, a victim impact statement from Alex Fraser’s parents told the world about their gentle son.

It said Alex was “an intelligent, happy young man” who loved computers and technology. He was going back to school, had a job from the time he was 13 and was “a good golfer.”

Every year, he and his dad would go for a week-long camping trip. “Alex started the fire the moment they got there and he kept it going until they had to pack up to go home.

“He was a gentle soul with a great sense of humour and a smile that wouldn’t quit,” they wrote. They said they still see their only child everywhere they look in their home — at the dining room table, in the family room where they’d watch TV together and in the kitchen.

“We have lost so much by this unbelievable circumstance, a wonderful young man with a bright future,” they said. “We didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to Alex. We thought he was coming home.”

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