It took the jury just three hours to find James McCullough guilty of killing and dismembering an Orangeville man in a London hotel back in 2013.
The verdict was announced at the London courthouse Monday night, guaranteeing McCullough life in prison for his role in the death of Alex Fraser.
The group of nine men and three women found McCullough guilty of first degree murder and committing an indignity to a human body.
Assistant Crown attorney Meredith Gardiner suggested during the trial that McCullough saw a work-holiday visa to Australia that was approved shortly before Fraser’s death as an opportunity to realize his fantasy of killing someone, disposing of the remains, and fleeing the country.
The Orangeville man claimed he had planned to live with an uncle in Australia and be an English teacher before the night Fraser died.
McCullough took the stand last week, describing Fraser as a “great guy, an intelligent guy, a computer whiz” who used to drink with him.
The jury heard that the friends cabbed from Orangeville to the London hotel, where McCullough paid with cash to check-in and used a fake name.
McCullough, who admitted to dealing drugs at the time, claims the pair were planning a home invasion during the visit to London. McCullough brought a knife and two hockey bags to be used during a robbery at a home he previously lived in while attending college.
However, Gardiner later pointed out McCullough told police he always used fake aliases because he was paranoid and thought the government was chasing him.
McCullough did cocaine and drank alcohol with Fraser before having a shower. He claimed that after he was finished, Fraser was standing naked in between two hotel beds, confessed a secret love for McCullough, and said he wanted to have sex.
McCullough said he told Fraser he wasn’t gay and the two began to physically fight.
During the struggle, McCullough testified Fraser grabbed at his genitals which sent him into a frenzy that ended when he grabbed a knife from his backpack and stabbed Fraser twice in the chest.
McCullough claimed he blacked out soon after stabbing Fraser, and woke up hours later on a hotel bed. He found Fraser’s remains in the bath-tub, and claimed to have no recollection of how Fraser was dismembered.
McCullough said he vomited then placed Fraser’s remains in two hockey bags he had originally intended to use during the home invasion, which was “probably one of the worst things I ever had to do in my life.”
Gardiner accused McCullough of lying, and said McCullough initially told Police Fraser was a “weirdo” who brought the knife in hopes of killing him.
During further cross-examination, Gardiner offered up her own theory to jury of what happened on the night Fraser died.
She suggested McCullough planned to checked into a hotel with Fraser, whom he knew regularly passed out while drinking, stabbed him when he was unconscious and enjoyed dismembering his body.
Gardiner argued that was the only explanation for McCullough being able to eat two fast food meals in the room with the remains placed in hockey bags after claiming the initial sight of Fraser’s remains made him vomit.
Forensic pathologist and Western University Professor Michael Shkrum testified earlier this month that Fraser died of multiple stab wounds to the neck and torso.
He counted 29 stab wounds to the head, neck, chest and abdomen. He also found cuts to three fingers on Fraser’s right hand, which Shkrum believes may have been defensive-type wounds.
Shkrum said dismemberment happened postmortem.
Officers testified earlier in the trial about blood found in the room’s bathroom that belonged to Fraser as well as items found at McCullough’s Orangeville home, including the rap lyrics. The lyrics, which talked about stabbing someone and chopping people up, were handed out to the jury for their consideration.
During the trial, a former friend of the accused took the stand to describe how the young man called him to the Travelodge on the night of September 7th, 2013.
22-year-old Lucas Verscheure went to Fanshawe College with McCullough in 2011. The young Glencoe man said when he and another friend arrived at the hotel, McCullough was acting strangely.
Verscheure told the court McCullough said he was homeless, then said he’d stolen government property and finally told him he’d been in a robbery turned murder with a Toronto gang member and that he had the victim’s foot and hand with him.
Verscheure said McCullough told him he wanted to scatter the victim’s body parts across the province.
The young man said he and his friend left the hotel as soon as they could, but didn’t contact police until after they heard McCullough was arrested.
McCullough denied Gardiner’s claim that he was keeping a tiny piece of Fraser’s bone found later in his backpack as a souvenir of the kill, and said “I felt horrible about killing him.”
McCullough also denied that he could be heard laughing while making a 9-1-1 call about a dead body in Room 326.
The Crown suggested the accused only decided to call Police after failing to convince a friend or loved one to give him a ride out of town.
McCullough faces life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Fraser’s parents are expected to read victim impact statements during the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday afternoon.