The second of two escaped inmates convicted of murdering Greater Victoria man Martin Payne was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison with no parole for 25 years.
Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch murdered the 60-year-old father in his rural home in July 2019 after the pair escaped Metchosin’s William Head prison.
Armitage appeared in a Vancouver courtroom for his sentencing on Wednesday morning. He was removed at the mid-point of last year’s first-degree murder trial, which spanned five weeks in November and December, after changing his initial plea from not guilty to guilty.
First-degree murder comes with an automatic sentence of life with no eligibility for parole for 25 years, which Busch received in December.
Payne’s family on Wednesday repeated heartwrenching victim impact statements heard during Busch’s sentencing hearing. Those addresses described the joyous and loving person Payne was, along with the mental anguish his loved ones have endured since the murder. The friends and family members who spoke on Wednesday reiterated how they’re constantly haunted by how the kind and gentle Payne’s last moments were filled with horror, trauma and pain.
“As if losing him weren’t hard enough, we had to lose him in this terrifying way, it breaks my heart that this lovely, kind man had to suffer this cruel end,” said Payne’s ex-wife Catherine. “My body cringes at the thought of the nightmare he had to endure. I don’t understand how anyone can treat another human being in this inhumane, evil way.”
Payne’s sister Colleen said the senseless actions of the inmates will weigh heavy on the family’s shoulders for the rest of their lives. His daughter Calla said she and her future children have been condemned to their own life sentences from the trauma that will persist through future generations of their family.
Colleen addressed Armitage directly, saying she couldn’t help but think he had a lifetime of trauma, pain and loss that led to where he is today. She then called on the man to seek help available in the prison system to “look inside your heart and soul and try to heal your own inner pain.”
Judge David Crossin, who presided over the trial, said he regrets he cannot mend loved ones’ broken souls and deep sadness, or the trauma inflicted on the family. He called the murder of the unarmed man brutal, senseless, shocking and grotesque.
“It was, I must say, absolutely cowardly without qualification,” Crossin said.
Unlike Busch, Armitage addressed the family during the hearing, saying that he was disgusted with himself.
During the trial, the court heard Armitage’s fingerprints were found on various items inside Payne’s home and his stolen truck. The inmate’s DNA was on shoes and clothing that were recovered from garbage bags in the victim’s home that were filled with bloody garments, linens and other items.
Someone also used Payne’s computer to search “Armitage” while he would’ve been at work and witness testimony showed Armitage used Payne’s landline to make calls inquiring about private water taxis to the mainland.
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