A grisly tale of murder, decapitation and dismemberment is unfolding in a Southern Ontario courtroom where jurors will decide the fate of a man accused of killing his friend and stuffing his body parts into two hockey bags.
James McCullough, 22, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and offering an indignity to a dead body in the death of Alex Fraser, whose remains were discovered in a London, Ont., hotel room in September 2013.
Crown prosecutors have provided jurors with a road map of the case, outlining the alleged series of events that led to the gruesome discovery by police two and a half years ago.
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Fraser was 20 years old at the time and living with his parents in Orangeville, Ont., a town where McCullough also lived, court heard.
Fraser’s mother was making dinner on a Saturday night, Sept. 7, 2013, when her son told her he was “going to James’ house.”
“The next that Jackie would hear of her child would be from police officers who attended her home in the early morning hours of Monday, Sept., 9 2013 to tell her that Alex was dead,” Crown prosecutor Meredith Gardiner told the jury.
That night, Fraser and McCullough got into a cab and McCullough asked to be driven to a hotel in London – about two hours away – paying $320 for the ride in cash, court heard.
The cab driver, Susan Faria, testified that shortly after they set off, McCullough asked her to turn back, saying he had forgotten some bags. She backtracked and waited with Fraser while McCullough retrieved two hockey-style bags and put them in the trunk, court heard.
Faria testified that over the course of the drive it was clear that Fraser was heavily intoxicated. She said he asked McCullough a number of times where they were headed. The jury also heard that McCullough became upset with Fraser for calling him James, and insisted his name was Josh.
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The two men were eventually dropped off at a Motel 6 just after midnight on Sunday, Sept. 8. Court heard that after initially having trouble getting a room, the pair ended up at the Travelodge, located next door.
While checking in, McCullough gave a fake name, a fake address and paid for the room in cash, court heard.
Some six hours later, around 6:30 a.m., McCullough came back to the front desk alone, said he wanted to book the room for another night and said he didn’t want any housekeeping, court heard.
That afternoon McCullough met two young men at the front doors of the hotel. He had texted one of them, Lucas Verscheure, who he had gone to college with, saying he was in town.
“The accused asked Lucas to bring him a pair of shoes. He asked Lucas to hurry and to come alone,” Gardiner said. “Lucas didn’t take him any shoes and he didn’t go alone.”
Verscheure had taken a friend, Colby Magee, with him and the three men went up to McCullough’s room where there were some large bags lying on the floor, court heard.
“The accused told Lucas and Colby not to go near those bags,” Gardiner said.
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The exchanges between the men then got increasingly strange, court heard.
McCullough first offered Verscheure $600 to drive him to North Bay, Ont., to visit an uncle. Verscheure refused and got up and looked out of the room’s peep hole when he heard noises.
McCullough then asked to use Verscheure’s cell phone and could be heard making arrangements to be picked up that evening, court heard.
McCullough then told the two men in the room that he had “done something terrible,” court heard.
He first told them he had robbed a government building and had thousands of dollars of stolen property in the bags in the room and again asked Verscheure to drive him somewhere far away to dispose of the bags. Again Verscheure refused, Gardiner said.
“The accused then told Lucas and Colby something else,” Gardiner said. “He said that he had robbed the government building with a 26-year-old (gang member) from Toronto and during the process they had killed someone. They had cut this person’s body up and he had some of the body parts with him in the bags.”
After another request from McCullough to drive him far away, Verscheure faked getting a call from his father and said he had to leave, court heard. Gardiner said Verscheure and Magee didn’t call police until days later.
Later that afternoon, McCullough called his uncle, Gardiner said.
“The accused told him he had killed someone and he asked his uncle whether he should get rid of the body,” she said. “You’ll hear that the accused called 911 at 7:56 p.m. on Sunday, September 8 ,2013. That was about 20 hours after he had checked into the hotel with Alex Fraser.”