The daughters of a man killed by two inmates who escaped a Vancouver Island prison say they’re grateful and relieved the men are being held accountable for the crime, but a guilty verdict won’t bring their father back.
Speaking with her sister outside B.C. Supreme Court after a jury found James Lee Busch guilty of the first-degree murder of Martin Payne, Jessica Payne said justice is “a bit of an abstract concept to us, because the thing that we want most is our father.”
The jury had not been aware that Busch’s co-accused, Zachary Armitage, had already pleaded guilty to the same charge midway through the month-long trial.
Echoing her sister, Calla Paynesaid the guilty plea and verdict don’t bring their father back, “so, is there justice, at the end of the day?”
Still, the sisters said they are relieved and they believe their father would be glad to know the men who killed him will be kept away from the public with mandatory sentences of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Jessica described her father as fun-loving, deep-thinking, compassionate, and “the most present father we could have hoped for.”
Calla said the sisters were “very lucky to have someone who brought joy into every day of our lives … and taught us to be kind, empathetic and support one another.”
Payne, who was 60, was killed on July 8, 2019, a day after Busch and Armitage walked away from the minimum-security William Head Institution, located eight kilometres from the victim’s home in Metchosin, west of Victoria.
The trial began Nov. 14 with both men pleading not guilty to first-degree murder, but two weeks later, Armitage entered a guilty plea without the jury present.
Jury members had been told the Crown was proceeding against the two men on separate indictments and that the murder trial would continue for Busch.
The verdict on Wednesday came about 24 hours after the jury began deliberating.
As Justice David Crossin was thanking jury members for their work, Busch flipped his middle finger at the court.
Both the Crown and defence had agreed that the evidence pointed to Armitage being guilty of the murder, but they disagreed on Busch’s role in the killing.
During the trial, Crown attorney Chandra Fisher said Armitage and Busch had planned their attack on Payne in order to get his banking information.
The two men were “inseparable” and had gathered weapons and duct tape to confine Payne before he was killed, she said in her closing arguments.
Unless Payne’s killer was a “master ninja” who could wield three weapons at once, there must have been two attackers in Payne’s home, she told the jury.
Fisher said Payne was larger than both of the men and two of them would have been needed to carry out the crime.
Busch’s lawyers called no evidence in his defence.
In closing statements to the jury, defence lawyer Ryan Drury said the case against his client was “weak” and “speculative.”
“We say that the Crown is asking you to speculate, to form a theory without firm evidence to support it.”
He said there was nothing about the wounds to Payne that showed they had to be inflicted by two people, and suggested to the jury that Armitage worked alone.
DNA evidence and lack of blood spatter on the Busch’s clothes meant either that he wasn’t in the house, that he didn’t take part in the murder, or his only involvement was in cleaning up the crime scene, Drury said.
The court heard that Busch’s fingerprints were not found inside the house.
However, the Crown had argued that because a pair of New Balance shoes found in the home had tested positive for both Busch and Payne’s DNA, it proved Busch was in the home.
Busch was arrested wearing Payne’s hat and backpack, which contained the victim’s house and truck keys, Fisher said.
—Brenna Owen and Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press